Left Justified: On the Waterfront Traitors

That will be the new epithet: “Traitors,” or, perhaps, “terrorists” as I’ll be hawking peace buttons again On the Waterfront, this year at 115 N. Wyman St.

We’ll sell peace buttons, mission items from around the world, and politically correct fair-traded coffee and chocolate, as well as handing out literature about the environment, peace, and even some of the presidential candidates (guess which ones). Most of the fancy stuff will come from the new fair trade store on Seventh Street, JustGoods.

Fair-traded gifts come from many fair trade (as opposed to “free trade”) outlets, including Ten Thousand Villages, a mission outreach of the Mennonite Church.

“We will be displaying arts and crafts from around the world where producers receive a fair and decent wage,” says Michael Kearney, president of JustGoods board, a volunteer, and a retired school teacher. “Fair trade is consumerism with a conscience, and the wave of the future, especially for people concerned about working conditions, the environment and social justice.” Mike will be at OTW as well as a number of volunteers. Don’t yell at them about the political buttons—that’s my fund-raiser.

You have to look for us on Wyman Street. The storefront is tucked away, and oftentimes there is a media tent set up right in front. But folks have come to expect a “Peace Store” on the Waterfront, and you won’t be disappointed this year.

Rockford Peace & Justice has had a table since the first OTW festival back in 1984. Illinois Public Action, a statewide citizens’ lobbying group, had an office at 219 E. State St., right in the midst of the first Labor Day weekend party. A group of us peacenik volunteers set up tables and sold almost 2,000 buttons.

We also got yelled at for being “communist.” That doesn’t happen much anymore. Most folks enjoy our political point of view, or will roll their eyes and leave.

Like other nonprofits, we found the Waterfront a good fund-raising opportunity and, every year since, we’ve weaseled our way onto the downtown festival.

The popularity of the peace buttons has changed. What used to rile some of the conservatives now is either chuckled at, or no one knows what it means. For example, we once sold a button that said, “Nuke a gay whale for Christ.” It was a jab at the right-wing for their intolerance, anti-environmentalism and pro-gun stances all on one button.

The war has brought forth tons of new buttons, most blaming Bush: “We are making more enemies than we can kill,” “There’s a village in Texas that has lost its idiot,” and “What’s our oil doing under their sand?” Some of you have to think about. And the meanness of the presidential election is reflected on someone’s lapel. My favorite is “Someone less dumber for President.”

If you are free Sunday morning, I will be preaching about our adventures in establishing a fair trade market on Seventh Street. Centennial United Methodist Church, 219 S. Second St. (just south of the City Hall) is allowing me to speak from their pulpit at the 10:30 a.m. service, Labor Day weekend. You are more than welcome!

Labor Day started as a day of appreciation for the American worker, and getting one last vacation before the winter winds blow. Happy Labor Day!

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

from the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2007, issue

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