Left Justified: International Day of Protest

“War is as outmoded as cannibalism, chattel slavery, blood-feuds, and dueling, an insult to God and humanity… a daily crucifixion of Christ.” —Muriel Lester

The war drags on, and it looks like we’re not winning. I think it’s because our commander-in-chief has alienated every other civilized country in the world and used our armed forces in a personal vendetta to depose a tinhorn dictator who threatened his father. There are lots of reasons to be concerned about the war on terrorism. And all of them will be expressed this Saturday, March 20, the International Day of Protest, when people around the world will take to the streets to oppose war and advocate a more peaceful, rational response.

The bombing in Spain shows that terrorists are still willing to plant bombs and kill innocent civilians. That is not a carte blanche for democratic governments to mount wars and kill innocent civilians. What is needed is investigatory detective work, which takes time and energy to track down the individual perpetrators. If there are conditions in the world that foster terrorism, then those conditions should be changed. It’s worked successfully in the past. The Irish problem was alleviated by the application of civil rights, a fair voting procedure, and more autonomous rule. South Africa was ready to explode in civil and racial war when cooler heads prevailed. Lessons were learned in Yugoslavia that are presently being ignored. And really, the only way leaders will take notice is when people take to the streets.

I wasn’t kidding when I said this was an International Day of Protest. On March 20, there are demonstrations being planned around the world.

Chicago will host the largest regional demonstration. They are calling it a “a family friendly rally for peace on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq! On this Global Day of Action, millions across the world will join Chicago faith, labor, and community groups in saying YES to peace and NO to pre-emptive war and occupation.” Quite a mouthful, but also quite a line up! They’ll start at the United Methodist “Temple” (across the street from the Picasso statue downtown) with a rally at 10:30 a.m. Then they will walk to the Federal Plaza for a big demonstration around noon.

Many of us in the peace movement will be heading for Chicago, but there is also going to be a rally and vigil this Saturday here in Rockford. Again, through the kind graces of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, we have gained access to their fellowship hall, where we will hear speakers, prayers, and songs for peace, starting at 10 a.m. At 11, the assembled body will move to State and Alpine for an hour peace vigil outdoors. Then everyone is invited back to share a bowl of soup.

Simple, but hopefully it will draw some attention. It will not be large. Rockford is not noted for being a demonstrative city, and a lot of our more active people will be in Chicago. But it’s the least we can do to try to stem the tide of war. As a veteran, I know that soldiers in the field want peace more than anyone else. I also know they will follow their orders even though it may seem hopeless, ridiculous, foolish, and downright stupid. But I also know that this democracy allows for the expression of dissenting viewpoints, and right now a lot of people dissent on the present war. You are welcome to join us.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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