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I’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.

In 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.

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Comment Preferences

  •   I know what you mean... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, gulfgal98

    I suspect we're about the same age.
    (I have done some in-person demonstrations, though, and it felt more like re-enacting than life changing.)

    "People are more than the worst things that they do,"--Chris Hayes

    by chicating on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:29:12 PM PDT

  •  I was really happy to see (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allenjo, worldlotus, willyr, gulfgal98

    this tool and I'm recommending this diary.

    But I'm really wondering about the analysis used to come up with the scores.  

    Rob Andrews has hardly ever met a war he didn't like.  And he gets a 69% score.  


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:31:16 PM PDT

  •  Street protests ended for me when... (0+ / 0-)

    At about 17 in the late 80s, a protest came running through my high school on its way to take over the main building at UC Berkeley. I went with them.

    People were shouting all the usual stuff against Reagan and against involvement with the Contras.

    We got there, took the building, and then somebody started asking "ok what are our demands, what are we protesting" and another one of them suggested ordering pizza...

    I left.

    disorganized, pointless, and turning the crowds just trying to file their financial aid papers against them. Around a similar time I saw a protest that took over a bridge, and started banging on people's car hoods. I started thinking: "don't we need those working adults on our side if we want to get our demands? And isn't this just going to make them mad at us instead?"

    Today's effective activist gets straight to the ear of that government representative. Come at them with polls from their district, facts, and financial figures.

    Hit them online, where people can post up personal stories and in depth details.

    Get that person who was just trying to get home on a busy bridge to join you, not react against you.

    The protests in the Vietnam War era left the country divided, left many people hostile to the left, and others hostile to the right. And didn't do much to end the war.

    A peace movement needs to hit with the targeted precision of a drone strike... with as little collateral damage as possible. Well, ideally less than a drone strike... because you have to win those hearts and minds... If the peace movement has moved off the streets and into the lobby... it might finally start getting things done.

    The roaches always win if you turn out the lights.

    by Jyotai on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 01:52:16 PM PDT

    •  There is definitely a lot of targeted, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      coordinated work happening behind the scenes on issues like Pentagon spending, Iran, nuclear weapons and drones. Especially on Syria, there was a lot of good communication between people on the Hill and people out in communities organizing grassroots work, and I think that made a big difference.

  •  Glad to see John Conyers on top of the Honor Roll (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of members of Congress who are working for peace. He's been doing it for a very long time---since Nixxon, at least.

    There are a lot of other good people on this list.

    Thanks for this.

    Tipped and Reccd,


    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 02:41:09 PM PDT

  •  I think it can take many forms (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rebecca Griffin, Meteor Blades

    Several months ago, I joined a group of peace activists who have a weekly vigil in front of the courthouse on Saturdays. Prior to seeing them one Saturday, I was unaware of their existence. We are a small unaffiliated, local group, but they have been doing this for over ten years!  Our oldest member is a WWII vet who is 91 years old and rarely misses a week.

    For our group, we are trying to inform and engage other citizens about why war is so wrong.  My fellow peace vigil participants tell me that public reaction to them has dramatically changed in the over ten plus years they have been doing it.  Early on, they were jeered by nearly every passer by and people reacted to them very angrily.  Now the reaction is just the opposite.  Most people tell us that they support what we are doing.

    I see action like our group does as a one to one outreach to other citizens. Often people will stop to talk to us and we try to be very friendly and non-confrontational in our interactions.  It seems to work too. I am a firm believer that political action results from grassroots social change and that is what our group tries to do.  That change can come naturally and/or from educating people on a one to one level.  

    The ultimate idea is for the people to pressure their elected officials to do the right thing.  As with Syria, we saw that what really changed the minds of the politicians was the overwhelming public outcry and anger of another war.

    War is the most useless and wasteful of all human endeavors.  Thank you for this diary, the great work you are doing, and the wonderful rating tool that you included.  

    "I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West "It was a really naked declaration of imperialism." ~ Jeremy Scahill on Obama's speech to the UN

    by gulfgal98 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 03:14:21 PM PDT

    •  I totally agree! There are a lot of different (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gulfgal98, Meteor Blades

      ways to mobilize people on these issues, and ideally groups with different approaches can work together so however the message is sent, it's being heard in a strategic, coordinated way. Thanks for all you're doing for peace!

      •  Thank you again (0+ / 0-)

        for this diary.  I hope we will see more diaries about this issue from you.

        "I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West "It was a really naked declaration of imperialism." ~ Jeremy Scahill on Obama's speech to the UN

        by gulfgal98 on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 04:59:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  This is the key. There ARE different ways... (0+ / 0-) approach the matter. But, as a veteran for several score antiwar protests in the '60s, and 13 months in prison for refusing the draft, let me say that not all we did in those days was focused on marches and demonstrations. We targeted public officials, getting city councils and county governments to pass resolutions against the war, counseled men facing the draft, worked for candidates who opposed the war, conducted "teach-ins" to inform people about the realities of the war and the lies of our government in prosecuting it and worked with returning veterans (many of whom came back opposed to the war).

        We should use all the tools we have to promote peace. No reason not to merge the old with the new, using each at their appropriate moment and venue.

        Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 06:53:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely. None of the discussion on my part (0+ / 0-)

          is meant to dismiss the effectiveness of previous work (as I say, it's always been very inspiring to me). It seems clear to me that people aren't getting out in the streets in the same way, and there could be a lot of interesting discussions about why that is. I wanted to push back against the mainstream narrative that that's all people were doing and thus nothing is happening now. Thanks for everything you do!

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