Not Your Parents’ Peace Movement

Peace Movement 2013I’ve heard it more times than I can count.

What happened to the peace movement? Why aren’t people out in the streets? Nobody cares about wars anymore.

The immense and effective public backlash to potential military action in Syria should put those lamentations about a lackluster peace movement to rest. Today’s peace movement responds to threats of war in the targeted, sophisticated manner that our political moment calls for.

Growing up in a small town in Maine with not a political rally in sight, I was in awe of footage of anti-Vietnam war protests.  I hoped I would experience the excitement of coming together for a cause. What that coming together looks like has changed a lot in the past fifty years—but don’t be fooled. Just because it doesn’t manifest in the same way doesn’t mean the peace movement isn’t making its voice heard.

Last month, I felt that excitement rushing around Capitol Hill the week of the scheduled vote on using force in Syria. In dozens of offices, I heard stories about phones ringing off the hook. The backlash was palpable. Knowing that activists around the country had banded together to beat back an ill-advised military attack made me feel like a part of something powerful.

Building on the groundwork laid by all those who worked before us for peace and social justice, we want to provide the tools to make today’s peace movement a well-oiled machine. Our inside and outside game are tightly coordinated. Our phone calls, emails, meetings, vigils, and media campaigns target the right people at the right time.

To that end, Peace Action and Peace Action West are launching Know the Score, a real-time tracker for Congress’s votes on peace. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can see every vote your representatives have taken on everything from wasting billions of dollars on missile defense to throwing up roadblocks to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. You can step back and see the whole landscape, with interactive maps of the country for every single vote. Here’s why I think this is important:

  • Knowledge is power. It’s a full-time job keeping up with the ins and outs of Congress. Few people have time to wade through more than 500 votes and parse the legislative language to find what’s important to them. But if we’re going to hold Congress accountable, we need to be watchdogs. How many of you know that the House (including 21 Democrats) voted to exempt the nuclear weapons budget from the government shutdown, while people who rely on government services suffered?
  • Action is best when it’s targeted and timely. The way issues of war and peace can turn on a dime, we need to know the congressional landscape and be ready to respond. A comprehensive and easy-to-navigate database of peace votes (including an honor roll of people who vote with us 90% of the time or more) helps us understand who our allies are and where we need to apply pressure.
  • Peace is hanging in the balance. This tool isn’t just about looking back. The next few months are critical for world peace. The US could be on the verge of a diplomatic deal with Iran, but there are lots of ways that Congress could be a spoiler in the process. The Syrian crisis rages on, while many politicians want to throw more weapons into the bloody civil war and others push for humanitarian aid. And although the government shutdown is over, we’re still in the midst of a budget crisis in which the Pentagon wastes billions of dollars while programs that make our communities stronger face the budget axe.

rebecca griffinIn those three days on the Hill in September, I witnessed a rapid, historic shift. Millions of engaged people brought us back from the brink of war. Today’s smart, sophisticated movement can do it again, with the right tools for making peace.

Rebecca Griffin
Peace Action West

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    Yes, people have found how to act to influence policies.
    In brief, as common-sense realists would put it, the key is credible pressure.
    But there is a big complication for anyone who imagines that all we need is a bigger naive ‘peace’ movement. ‘Peace-at-any-price’ policies do not equate to ‘peace’. Common-sense applied to lessons from bitter historical experience is sometimes mistaken branded as cynicism, but it’s still common-sense. And one repeated lesson from both history and everyday life is that a premature or unrequited show of compromise and concession, and obsession with peace-at-any-price, is the quickest way to get the opposite of peace: these attitudes advertise to the truly bad guys the sort of actual or apparent weakness that actually invites aggression and creates wars.
    The author, for instance, equates peace to ‘diplomacy’ with Iran – which in effect, based on what has actually been happening over the past years, means rewarding the Tehran tyrants for their tyranny, and allowing them not only to continue to sponsor terror abroad and repress their people at home but also to get more time to get their nukes.
    Lots of folk in the 1930s equated ‘peace’ to diplomacy with Hitler, and ever since we’ve had similar equations of ‘peace’ based on the facile assumption that power-mad fanatic tyrants and genocide-sponsoring usurping chiefs of state are really just ordinary folk at heart that we can and should ‘compromise’ with for the sake of ‘peace in our time’. Never mind that ‘diplomacy’ didn’t work to save their victims, and never mind their operative concept of ‘peace’.

  2. jsegal says

    Great work and article Rebecca!

    I have come to the belief that as others have said peace is not simply the absence of war. It is the presence of understanding, cooperation and collaboration towards sustainable communities that respect and honor life.

    Much like economic equality and justice, peace will never come to us from Washington DC or any government but must start with us and move up to them. I think it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said something along the lines of, one of these days the people of the world will want peace so much that their governments will have to get out of their way and let them have it.

    I love your “real time tracker” so people can know the score about how our representatives vote on peace. Great job! I would also like to see a tracker or “dashboard” that helps us all see the score on what each of us do and can be doing to demonstrate our principles of peace in our lives and communities. How can we learn and teach peaceful conflict resolution, empathy for people who seem different than ourselves, and cooperation as a more effective model than competition? I hope we can create a Citizen Peace Action Dashboard that helps us do daily steps to live and create a peaceful world together.

    Thank you!
    Joseph Segal @joesegal

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