Saturday, April 24, 2010

Selling peace and disarmament

When my friend Genny Kortes went to the post office in Vancouver, Washington on tax day, April 15, to protest war taxes, she handed out leaflets, as she has for many years. The postal officials had never stopped her.

This year, she was “helped” by a very belligerent “peace” person (not the person pictured) who so angered everyone that police were called and the postal employees told them to go away and not return.

If we cannot help our own people stay on message and stay calm and centered we lose. Most don’t want to do this, as it’s uncomfortable to tell our compatriots in the movement that they are driving away potential activists. But we are perennially depressed when our movements don’t draw enough participants and if we hope to do that we not only have to have logic and ethics on our side, we need the invitational image.

We need to make peace sexy, attractive, fun, exciting, and alluring—indeed, it’s time to make resistance irresistible. We should be smiling, open, feeding our communities, working to help children, and recruiting regular folks who want to change the world or save the children or protect the planet. They count on us and most of us want to give them that. If we do, we will monitor and intervene on the behaviors of those of us who cannot maintain enough self-discipline to avoid alienating our good fellow citizens.

The angry activists who show their rage and argue down anyone in earshot are depressed and they simply need to grow some hope rather than participate in such a self-fulfilling prophesy—You people are stupid and don’t care and I’m disgusted by your lack of involvement! That is the message that guarantees its own outcome.

The minute we start to debate, we have lost. We will not argue down someone with a hard and violent position. Those who show up to heckle us are not going to be converted. Their behavior is its own punishment, to themselves and to their support for war and injustice.

Our job is to check our own compatriots so that we aren’t dismissed as cranks, as dangerous, as temper tantrums looking for a place to explode. Bring us happy children and tie-dyed shirts, beaming grandmothers and caring peacewalkers. This is when we look like a good bet for our good-hearted neighbors.

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