The more I become immersed in activism and Peace Studies, the more I see the connection in all that ails us. We shouldn’t be working one way to end the war in Iraq while doing something completely different to stop foreclosures- they both exist because of the system we have in place. The question then becomes, do I work within the system to try and change it, do I focus my energy on destruction of the current way of life, do I ignore the system and try to build an alternative, hoping that causes the collapse of the current structure…or is there something I’m missing? I understand the value of focusing on one issue at a time, of standing on a corner and handing out fliers explaining why the war in Afghanistan is a bad thing. However, does this really accomplish anything? It was (in my opinion) nonviolent direct action – including the refusal of soldiers to fight anymore – that ended the war in Vietnam. It is good that people rose their voices and put their lives on the line in order to end an unjust war, but what happened after that? Has there been a day that has gone by since then that some innocent person somewhere on the earth wasn’t killed or maimed because of some US foreign or domestic policy? Are we not involved in multiple illegal wars all these years later? Is our Military-Industrial Complex not a hundred times stronger than it was when we “ended” our involvement in Vietnam?
I believe that the only way to take down the system we have in place or build something else is to change people’s minds, one at a time. We have to dedicate our individual lives to making this change within ourselves, all the while talking to as many people as possible and hoping that we rub off on them. Is this better accomplished by standing at the end of a Memorial Day foot race and handing out fliers concerning the Afghanistan war or by dropping a banner and illegally posting fliers explaining how everything ties in together? Is it better to convince ten people who have never been involved in making change, that the wars are wrong and they should do something about it, or would more be accomplished by showing one person that the whole system is a mess and needs to be changed? I don’t think that either one is more valid than the other, nor do I think people are working harder on one side.
Maybe the problem is not what we do, but how we do it; for example, what do we do about the problem of foreclosure that millions of families are facing? Do we talk to the banks, set up meetings with our local sheriffs and city councils, and demand that these people get new, affordable mortgages? Or, do we skip that step – since each and every human being has the right to food, shelter, clothing, education, and security – and realize that true freedom will not be accomplished through lobbying some politician? Or, maybe we do both…and more. I don’t know what any of the answers are; in fact, in the twenty minutes it took me to write this, a dozen new questions have come up. I also know that hardly anyone will read this, but if you are one of the few and you have any opinion on this, please let me know.