Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marching for Peace and Principles

I originally wrote this editorial for the February/March 2008 issue of Our Voice with a few revisions to bring it up to date. I found myself contemplating this topic again after taking part in a number of actions over the weekend.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. As a politically involved person, I take an interest in seeing what people list as their political beliefs on their profiles. I am astonished at how many people put “apathetic” as their response. As far as I am concerned, “apathetic” is pathetic.

In particular, I am talking about involvement in the antiwar movement. When it comes to working for peace, complacency is simply not an option. Our government’s foreign policy affects so many things, from where our tax money is going, to the basic immorality of imposing our standards and values on the people of another country (otherwise known as imperialism).

Sometimes, upon further probing, some of these “apathetic” people actually sympathize with the peace movement, but find it futile to get involved. In no particular order, here are some of the reactions I get from others when I tell them about my involvement with the peace movement:

Your actions won’t make a difference.
The 60s are over.
Why put yourself up for such ridicule?

Even amongst some peace people, complacency has replaced idealism. Some of the older folks who protested in earlier decades felt that their actions achieved nothing, and so they decided there was no point in continuing down the same path.

Wrong, wrong wrong.

A fundamental principle of life that hopefully we all should share is that it is important to stand up for what we believe in. Thus, it follows that if we believe in peace, we should make a stand. After all, people flock by the hundreds to attend the “Red Friday” pro-war rallies that are periodically held in Churchill Square. We, as antiwar people, should not be afraid to take as bold of a stand.

One way to take such a visible stand is by taking part in a peace march or rally. Major peace events are generally held in Edmonton twice a year -- in the Fall coinciding with the date that Canada invaded Afghanistan, and in the Spring when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Sometimes emergency actions spring up at other times, depending what is going on in different parts of the world.

However, the number of people in Edmonton who attend such events is rather small, likely for many of the same arguments mentioned previously. To the position that peace marches accomplish little, look at it this way: a peace march is visible resistance to war. It is a very public demonstration of one’s convictions, and sends a message to the government in a very “in your face” kind of way.

Other, quieter ways to protest against war include signing petitions, which nowadays is quick and easy since many of them are online. You can write letters to your Member of Parliament, or even to the Prime Minister himself. Postage costs nothing on letters send to the federal government.

Who is to say we are accomplishing nothing? Each individual has enough of a sphere of influence to make tangible changes in he world around him or her. I am pretty confident that I have gotten friends and acquaintances to reevaluate their positions, or at least think about certain issues a bit more than they normally would.