Recently, I was hanging out with a new friend from the Eugene peace community and a John Lennon CD started playing in her disc changer. I've been a Lennon fan since I was eight years old, when I first heard "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and I knew all the songs we heard by heart, but they were different that night. It was like they were new. "Give Peace a Chance", "Mind Games", and even "Imagine" provided new revelations for me. Why? Because we're in wartime again and that's the climate in which John wrote them originally. For the first time I understood -- intimately -- that emotional space, and I suddenly saw how brave he was to have written, recorded, and released such statements. To be pro-peace in times of war has always been tough, and now, since September 11, John's music resonates more deeply. It is a wonderful experience to have a visceral appreciation for an artist's work, though this was not a way of getting there I would have chosen.
On September 11, my first reaction was, "Oh no, I'm not ready," meaning that I'm new to political activism, and saw in an instant how much more difficult such work was about to become. My mind raced to the horrible consequences that were sure to follow: more carnage abroad, discrimination against minorities at home, and -- most personally -- repression of political activists, a wartime tradition. And sure enough, all three things have come to pass. The U.S. military machine is ruthlessly killing civilians in Afghanistan, at least six minorities have been murdered in this country because of their perceived race, and Congress is passing alarming legislation that's tearing the Fourth Amendment to shreds and which is sure to spread, cancer-like, throughout the rest of the Bill of Rights.
This is a scary time to be alive, to be sure. I won't dwell on that subject, as other posts on this site cover it well. I will also not go too far in depth about how important it is that we stand up to all these injustices, and keep fighting for all the important causes that *aren't* directly related to the damn war; plenty of activists are also keeping this in mind, and putting their thoughts into action. Organizations like the Cascadia Forest Alliance have not laid aside their goals because "the country needs to pull together". Rather, they've stuck with their struggle. And god bless 'em for it; the trees do, after all, still need to be saved.
What I'd like to say here, and this is hardly an original thought, is that "love is the answer". Now before you mutter "stupid hippie" and hit the back key, allow me to clarify.
Che Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary, famously declared: "Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." I don't agree with all of Che's tactics -- as a military leader, he was responsible for many deaths -- but I will stand along side him "seeming ridiculous" on this subject.
When we are met with fear, we have two options; fight or flight. Flight is certainly tempting; facing conflicts can be difficult whether they are personal or political. It is easy to rationalize any number of sensible reasons to give up, and we can even make ourselves sound strong when we express them, but flight is nothing more than the abandonment of responsibility. This is not the time to turn our backs on the world.
Our only choice in these hards times is to fight. Not by taking up weapons, but by taking up love. Love is not weak or passive. Love is strength and action -- direct action. In a culture based on selfishness, and under a government bent on violence, to act from love is the bravest thing we can do.
I hate to quote a capitalist, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he said that "all we have to fear is fear itself." The struggle against U.S. imperialism goes back at least 50 years, and against military and economic colonialism at least 500. So far, those who have stood for peace and justice have not won. We may never win. But the only way we can lose is by giving up, by refusing to fight, by casting aside love. This is our highest calling as humans: to learn to love, especially when it is not easy.
Although the world might indeed have ended on September 11th and been replaced with another, off kilter -- this world is not all bad. Indeed, there are "Beautiful Moments Amidst Madness". The well-regimented forces of hate organizing themselves against us and much of the rest of the world can bring forth the flowering of love, like the "brotherhood of man" that Lennon imagined, or other sweet forms of it. Honestly, this is the only way to survive at this point.
This Empire must reverse its course and become a force for peace. The cycle of violence must end. We must fight for what is right. It's an uphill battle, but there is no other way. We must be "guided by great feelings of love" no matter how ridiculous it might seem.
And that's what I saw and felt on Saturday, November 3, in Salem. Positive energy gathering in the crowd, pushing forward, and flowing out onto the streets. I was there to cover the event to write an Indymedia post, but I was not apart from the people there; I was not separate or objective; the story I wrote about it was not balanced. How could it be any of those "professionally journalistic" things? Here was a group of people standing up to one of the most powerful and insidious propaganda machines ever implemented (the U.S. corporate media, which is happily self-censoring itself so as not to risk losing profits) and taking their message to the streets, in public, to the people, in an attempt to make things better. It was a truly beautiful thing, and I could not be unaffected. Nor did I want to be. The positivity of love that can emerge from the negativity of fear is one of the great miracles of human consciousness and should be cherished, not written off as "subjective" or "soft". To reject love is to reject life itself.
But who is brave enough to make this choice? So far, not very many, even among the "activist community". We must spread the word, share the feeling, nurture the new soft shoots where ever they might spring up. If we want to save the world, that's the path to take, with bravery, strength, and a willingness to fight. The moneychangers have been in the temple long enough; it's time to knock over their tables, throw them out, and make room for real love, real faith, real life.