Left Justified: On the Waterfront and other end-of-summer thoughts

By Stanley Campbell

I’ll be hawking peace buttons again On the Waterfront. Rockford Peace & Justice has had a table since the first festival back in 1984. Illinois Public Action, a statewide citizens’ lobbying group, had an office on East State Street, 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 either enjoy our political point of view, or just roll their eyes and promptly leave.

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

This year, Rockford Area Lutheran Ministries is opening up its office at 115 N. Wyman St. so we can display peace buttons, mission items from around the world, and politically-correct fair-traded coffee.

And I’ve asked people to donate their old CDs and DVDs, hats and neckties (you can donate yours, just drop off at JustGoods, 201 Seventh St.). If I had more strength, I’d ask for old lawn chairs: one thing people appreciate is a good, light chair to take to the various music venues. But that will have to be for another year. This year, I’ll be selling hats and ties as well as music, peace buttons and bumper stickers. And you’ll get a preview of the latest items from JustGoods, the fair-trade market over here at 201 Seventh St. Dori Kearney, JustGoods store manager, promises some new items as well as the favorite chocolates and organic coffees.

You’ll have to look for us—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 we won’t disappoint them this year.

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

Our political buttons have gotten more colorful. This year’s selection includes a fiery oil rig with the slogan “Drill, Baby, Drill.”

I love and support public radio and our own local brand: WNIJ and its sister station, WNIU, (classical music). But should we use government money to fund it?

Oh, I do like public radio—no commercials and wonderful music, and Morning Edition and no commercials and lots of news, opinions, local information and, best of all, no commercials.

But I do get queasy about using taxpayer dollars to fund public radio. I, of course, would rather see federal funds spent less on big bombs, and more on education and health. But I can’t really justify funding something that I use so much, like WNIJ. People who pledged money this past season are putting their money where their ears are, and I’m sure Republicans are very happy about that. Public media now get less than 10 cents from every American. One thin dime, one-tenth of a dollar.

With the increase in tax breaks for the filthy rich, Congress will have to cut more money from National Public Radio next year. I hope you can help.

And finally, was it my imagination, or was this a hot summer? I mean, hotter than normal? Could it be that the scientists might be correct, that global weather change may indeed be threatening us? Naw, the folks at FOX News assure us nothing like that will ever happen. It must be a fluke.

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

From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue

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