Stimulating Peace

We have fallen on hard times here in the United States. With the crashing housing market, the rising costs for food and fuel, and no end in sight, the economy has definitely taken a turn for the worse.

In hopes of stimulating the economy, the Congress and President Bush are sending you and me a stimulus check. Six hundred dollars for every person in America earning more than $3000 delivered to our front doors. The Government wants you to spend all that money on something shiny. They want you to go to Target, Best Buy, or Home Depot and buy something for yourself, acquiring more stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need more stuff. I am pretty sure I need to be reducing my stuff intake. Thankfully, there are other ways to spend that money.

Many financial planners want us to remember that this is not free money; this is our money. This is money the Government took from us in the form of income taxes. These financial planners recommend spending your stimulus checks just like you would spend the rest of your paycheck. Instead of going on a spending binge and getting your kids (or yourself) a video game system, or getting your house some new drapes, be responsible with your money. Pay down your debt and invest in your retirement.

But don’t forget to devote some of your money to peace and justice. When the economy takes a down turn like this, the first to get hit are not the corporations, but rather those in the Non-Profit sector. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) work hard, functioning off of shoestring budgets, and require donations to get their work done. When people start tightening their belts and reassessing their budgets, the first expenses to go are often donations. The number of donations to NGO’s have stayed steady, but the overall amount of money in donations has already declined. The effects of this economic downturn have already come to the non-profit sector. Many great organizations here in Washington DC and all around the nation have started to cutback on their program staff. Hardworking people devoted to peace and justice are losing their jobs.

Please, instead of going out and buying a new IKEA bedroom set or plasma screen TV, consider giving to the non-profit sector instead. With this check, you can stimulate the economy and support peace at the same time. And even if you do not or cannot devote all $600, please give a little. I am using most of my check to pay off student loans, but I am still going to disperse $100 from my stimulus check to organizations I feel are doing a great job working for peace and justice both here in the US and the world at large.

Here is just a selection of organizations to send your stimulus check to:
UUA’s Now Is The Time Campaign-devoted to growing our faith
UUSC– Decide if you want to give to the Myanmar Relief Fund or to the whole organization
FCNL– Quaker advocacy organization devoted to peace and human rights
World Wildlife Fund-Protecting endangered species
Fellowship of Reconciliation– Interfaith peace organization
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice– Faithful pro-choice organization
North American Street Newspaper Association– Giving a voice and jobs to America’s homeless
World Hunger Year– Supporting food banks
Or your home congregation


Ringing for Justice in Iraq

Yesterday, I volunteered to climb the steeple of All Souls Unitarian Church of Washington D.C. and ring the Revere Bell for the ten minutes before the second worship service in remembrance of all the lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

UU World profiled the Revere Bell in 2005:

The Revere Bell of Freedom was cast in 1822 by Paul Revere’s son Joseph. It was once considered one of the official bells of Washington and was rung for fires and to mark the death of public figures. The bell fell out of favor [as an official bell] after being used to toll the death of abolitionist John Brown in 1859, earning it the name the Abolition Bell. Since then, the bell has been rung for many human rights causes.

Ringing the bell is no small chore. It requires yanking down on a rope with the full weight of your body, halting the rope on its rise and halting it once again on its second rise. The entirety of this activity is done with a deafening clanging in your ears. After ten minutes of laboring with the bell, I descended to the sanctuary covered in sweat, but also alert, mindful, and ready for worship.

A week before ringing the bell, I went along with staff from the Friends Committee on National Legislation for a visit with the staff of Senator Specter (R-PA). We thanked Sen. Specter for speaking out against President Bush’s Middle East policies and asked that the Senator back up his lip service with action. The staffer was glad to receive our praise and our request, but he gave us nothing back.

Our congress is stymied in a cycle of rhetorical outrage against the war, followed by sheepish votes to continue funding it. Members of congress are full of powerless words, and devoid of powerful votes. Congress is currently considering appropriating another $100 billion for the war. This is likely their last chance to live up to the mandate to end the war that voters gave them in 2006. I encourage you to visit your members of congress the week after Memorial Day when they will be in their district offices and remind them of their mandate.

While ringing the Revere Bell, I imagined it stationed in the halls of congress. I imagined the bell’s clanging thunder drowning out all the empty rhetoric, and its resounding glory celebrating every vote for freedom and justice. As we march and protest against the war, write letters and emails, call and visit our representatives, we are tolling for justice. As we send vibrations reverberating through congress, our representatives may not be moved to action, but they certainly feel our presence. And this November our vibrations will be much more powerful, so please vote, and please vote loudly.

The Clash Against Racism

Most people my age were raised by hippies. Their parents spent their young adulthoods listening to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. My parents, on the other hand, were not hippies. My parents were punks. They spent their young adulthoods listening to the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and my personal favorite, The Clash. After I was born, their taste in music did not get watered down; it just got more eclectic. Riding in the car as a child, the tapes often wavered between children’s performers like Sharon, Lois and Bram or Raffi, but also the 1979 hit album “London Calling” or 1981’s “This is Radio Clash” by The Clash. By the time I was four years old, I knew all the words to both “Baby Beluga” and “Rock the Kasbah”.

Led by frontman, Joe Strummer, The Clash sang songs about working class struggle and disenfranchised youth trying to find their ways through a world filled with advertising, war, violence and drug abuse. Sure, I didn’t understand what most of it meant. But it definitely struck a chord with me.

Thirty years ago, today, The Clash headlined a concert series called “The Carnival Against Nazis.” Organized by the organization, Rock Against Racism, in response to a series of racist comments made by British rockstars, The Clash along with X Ray Spex, Steel Pulse, and The Tom Robinson Band played in front of 100,000 fans. The Proceeds of the concert went to the Anti-Nazi League. This was crucial to the strength of the Punk scene in Britain. Many places had seen their clubs overrun by skin heads and neo-nazis. But the wild and passionate work against the established evils of racism and sexism had fallen away. For The Clash and X Ray Spex to speak out against Skinheads and Nazis was a very brave move.

Today, many of the original musicians have returned to fight racism. X Ray Spex and many of the original members of The Clash—Strummer died in 2003—have come out along with newer bands like Babyshambles and played the “Love Music, Hate Racism” concert in order to combat growing neo-nazi and anti-immigrant sentiments in Great Britain.

Even though Strummer died five years ago and many of the things the Clash stood against—war, poverty, violence and racism—still exist, their music has always been a call to action for many. To this day, “London Calling” has been one of my unofficial social justice theme songs: in a world of shiny distractions and war with no end—there is still Joe Strummer and The Clash reminding me that there is some truth in this world.

Death And Taxes

Written on the side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building here in Washington, D.C. is a quote from our Unitarian forefather, Oliver Wendell Holmes. “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”. However, In 2008, I think a quote from Benjamin Franklin is more appropriate. “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

While I proudly pay my taxes—I need roads, and police, and libraries and schools and I am willing to contribute to them—there is a part of my taxation that frustrates me. War. Here in the United States, Death is inextricably tied to Taxes.

If you have filed your taxes, you may be familiar with this little chart which shows the projected federal budget for fiscal year 2006.

As you can see, the IRS claims that the largest portion of spending goes to “Social Security, Medicare and retirement (36%)” followed by “National Defense, Veterans and Foreign Affairs (23%)”. The other half is an amalgamation of health and community development (12%), social programs (21%) and Net Interest on the Debt (8%).

But what does that all really mean?

Thanks to the National Priorities Project, we now know.

Here we see that 20% of our Federal budget earmarked for National Defense is directly for the Dept. of Defense. And the nice, big, 21% slice for all social programs is actually mostly Medicaid. So, all spending for our non-Medicare social programs is actually 8% of the annual budget.

23% of our national budget goes to making war. On the other hand, 8% goes to all the other departments: Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, Housing/Urban Development among others. But don’t forget, the departments of Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, and Housing/Urban Development all put part of their budgets toward national defense—nuclear weapons, coast guard, satellites used for military efforts, and veteran housing, respectively. The functions of our government agencies are not always transparent.

What different departments contribute to the military machine is hard to estimate. The Department of Homeland Security’s budget gives massively to military expenditures (70%). However, the Department of Education does not. Even if we were to add a very conservative 5% of the total budget from social programs to the original 23% given by the IRS, we bring the military spending to 28% of total national spending.

As for that 8% of the budget that goes to net interest on the debt, we must ask, “Where did that debt come from?” Well, most our debt came from previous wars, mainly WWII and Vietnam. But how much of the debt belongs to previous military spending? Depending on which advocacy organization one chooses to look at, analysts divide that 8% differently. War Resisters League estimates a much higher percentage than our friends at the FCNL. If we use the FCNL’s conservative estimation, we add another 4% to the total percent of our budget’s military spending.

We now have reached 32% of your tax dollars going to military spending—past, present and future. Although, if we use War Resisters League numbers, that brings us up to 36%.

At our conservative estimations, 36% of your 2006 income taxes went to paying for war.

With the taxes you filed today, your payment for the war will be even higher than last year.

And the percentage of taxes coming out of your paycheck to fund war this year will be even higher!

An estimated half of your income taxes in 2008 will go to paying for war. Even with a new President in the Oval Office in January, your taxes will be paying for this war. Even if all troops were to leave today. You will still be paying for this war.

While it is still fresh in your mind, enter the amount of money you paid in taxes in 2007 and this pie chart will show how much you paid to support the war, health care, and social programs. I was shocked to find out that I paid over $1220 to the war in 2007. I was especially shocked by this number compared to the mere $29 that went to peaceful International Relations.

If taxes are the price to pay for a civilized society, why is it that half of it goes to war? What is so civilized about that?

Dr. King’s Legacy and "Beyond Vietnam"

Forty years ago last Friday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead at a Memphis, Tennessee, motel by James Earl Ray. Today, we mark forty years without the civil rights leader with great sadness.

April 4th, 1968 is not the only important 4-4 in Dr. King’s life. Friday was also the 41st anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam, simply known as “The Riverside Church Address” named for the church in New York City where he gave the address. This speech, which many consider one of his most important and prophetic, was given exactly one year before his untimely death. In it, King shares his vision for America. He also warned us of the three scourges facing the United States.

Forty-one years ago, Dr. King warned us that the job of the civil rights movement is far from over. The work of justice loving people would never be done as long as the following three things survived:

Racism

Poverty

Militarism

At this point, the civil rights movement was more than twenty years old. While many strides had been made for the Black American community, there was still so much to do. De jure racism in the form of Jim Crow and government imposed subjugation of members of the Black community may have been turned over, but de facto racism still existed. It was the work of justice seeking people to work toward the beloved community where people existed in mutual love and vulnerability.

Dr. King also noted that poverty was a very real experience for many Americans regardless of race, age, gender, or family history. The anger of the poor was regularly misplaced toward each other rather than toward the unjust systems that held them in their class place. The mantle of racism would persist as long as poverty pitted Americans against each other for resources and happiness.

Finally, Dr. King spoke against the growing tensions between the United States, Vietnam, and other nations. The Cold War caused precious resources to be diverted from social programs to military programs. Militarism and American aggression was a social ill that peace loving people could not accept.

This speech inspired a new branch of the civil rights movements to include a “Poor People’s Movement”. A movement that would bridge the races by working toward the universal experiences of poverty and militarism, this movement would bring the issues of the lowest of the low to Washington. Modeled after Gandhi’s work with the upsetting the Indian Caste System; rich and poor, black and white, young and old would work to build the Beloved Community.

Dr. King was shot while planning a National Poor People’s March on Washington. Ultimately he never got to see the results of that plan and the movements’ largest Washington Supporter, Congressman Robert F. Kennedy, lost his life just days before the March. The loss of these two leaders came too early to help grow this burgeoning movement.

In the following 40 years, we have seen little progress in the world of race relations. We have seen social support programs slashed and more and more people have fallen into the pit of poverty. And the Vietnam War raged for nearly a decade after the speech only to be followed by larger and more bloated military budgets.

During this time of mourning and remembrance, let’s pick up the dropped mantle of Dr. King and his movement. While we may have lost him, his prophetic words are still with us and no less true than they were forty years ago. Especially in this time of racial hurt, economic frustration, and international turmoil—we need Dr. King’s words more than ever.

4,000 American Deaths in Iraq

On the tail of the fifth anniversary of the War in Iraq, we reach another chilling milestone—the Four Thousandth American Death. 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq. It is a sad and horrible day for our nation. But 4,00 is such a big and faceless number, what does it actually mean? What are the implications of 4,000 dead American soldiers and what other numbers will we not be hearing today?

1,750 more American soldiers have died in Iraq than all of the employees who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.

Each loss is terrible and tragic. According to icasualties.org, a website that specializes in keeping records of Iraqi and coalition deaths, 81.8% of US deaths are caused by combat related wounds (3270). Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) are the number one cause of death for American Soldiers followed by General Hostile Fire and then Hostile Fire from Small Arms Ammunition.

Of the remaining, non-combat related deaths, many were caused by accidents. But 145 deaths were self inflicted. Most suicides have been gunshot related.

95 of the total deaths were women. 12.7% of fatalities in Iraq have been the age of 21–being the most likely age to die. And 79% (3164) of American fatalities have been under the age of 30. Americans in their 20’s are most likely to die in Iraq—61.7% of fatalities have been between the age of 21 and 30. A great many US casualties today were unable to vote when this war began. People who were just children when this war began five years ago are now expected to fight in it.

California, Texas and Pennsylvania have lost the most of its native sons and daughters to the fight. Although, of American enlisted forces who lost their lives; 34 came from Puerto Rico, 7 came from American Samoa, 6 each from Guam and US Virgin Islands, 5 from Washington DC, 3 from Micronesia, and one each from Great Britain, Canada, Panama, Guatemala and Palau—66 dead American Soldiers came from nations and regions that have no US Congressional voting abilities. There are people who decide when and how wars will be fought. And there are those who actually do the fighting.

29,451 American servicemen and women are returning home with injuries. Brain trauma from concussion blasts are the most common injury, followed by hearing loss and lower limb injury. In the Korean and Vietnam Wars, one had a one in four chance of dying from a serious injury. On the other hand, in Iraq and Afghanistan, one has a one in seventeen chance of dying from a serious injury. (Jeff Donn and Kimberly Hefling, AP 9/29/07). This is due to increased body armor and medical technology. But it also means more and more people are returning home with physical and mental injuries.

Then there is the very invisible injury but very real of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) categorizes PTSD as a mental disorder caused by one or more critically stressful or traumatic events. It can cause an emotional and physical numbing of an individual as well as intrusive memory in the form of flashbacks. It can cause clinical depression and disconnect between individuals.

Because the Department of Defense only calculates American casualties, it does not count the numbers of Iraqi injuries and fatalities. icasualties.org estimates a total 8057 Iraqi police force deaths—twice that of American fatalities. They also estimate an outrageous 40,935 Iraqi civilian death count from both Coalition attacks and insurgency attacks alike—more than 10 times that of American GI deaths. Clearly, we have their blood on our hands. Due to the Department of Defense’s refusal to calculate Iraqi deaths, we know very little of who they were and exactly what happened. Maybe this is one of the most tragic aspects of this war. The people we came to “liberate” and “protect” have become little more than collateral damage–a part of the landscape and a “natural part of the war”. I refuse to believe nearly 50,000 dead Iraqis can be counted as “collateral damage”. And what of the invisible insurgency? The warring factions we just group together into a nameless, faceless mass of “evil-doers”? How many have been killed in their own struggle for liberation?

What is most difficult for me as I read these numbers is to remember that these are not just numbers. These are people. These are communities and families and young souls who have been forever changed by these events.

Even in the unlikely chance that the War in Iraq were to end tomorrow, there would be thousands of US Troops who did not come alive and many more who will—and still do—need emotional and spiritual healing. I am saddened by the news today of the 4000th American death. But I am also saddened by the thousands more—American, Coalition, and Iraqi forces alike—who will need support and healing in the years to come.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I know my spiritual home is one where we can bring healing into the world. For more information on how to support our troops and their families in a spiritually liberal manner, please visit our website and download our guide on welcoming home our children in uniform.

UUs Participate in Anti-War Demonstration

Last Friday, Washington DC played host to the Interfaith Peace Witness—a project of the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership. Over 11 houses of worship, including All Souls Church, Unitarian hosted services where hundreds of faithful activists prayed and meditated for a world united in peace and justice. An interfaith service with guest speakers including Rev. Bill Sinkford was then held in the pouring rain in Upper Senate Park. Participants continued to the Hart Senate Office Building. There, a non-violent direct action was held in the atrium of the building while religious leaders met with Sen. Reid’s (D-NV) office.

The whole day was really quite powerful and more information about it can be found at uua.org. What I would really like to focus on is the Civil Disobedience (CD) that happened in the Hart Building. I have been in direct actions before—at the School of the Americas as well as other events. But I have never seen a more beautiful and spiritually grounded action as this one.

The original plan for the action was to have a “pray-in” on the front steps of the building. As senators, staffers, lobbyists and tourists left the building, they were brought into our worship service for peace. Capitol Hill Police (CHP) came out of the building and began filming our service. The trickle of people leaving dried up. And after an hour, it was evident that CHP was trying to wait us out.

So the plans changed. It was decided that the CD would head inside where it was warm and dry. Those risking arrest sat in the middle of the Office Building’s Atrium in a circle and began to sing hymns and pray. CHP came within a matter of minutes to break this up.

As CHP entered, they came to intimidate. They marched in and made a circle around the protestors. The rest of us then made a circle around CHP. We now had about three concentric circles. The CHP captain came with a bull horn to inform every one sitting that they had gathered without a permit and they needed to move. After three warnings, CHP brought out the handcuffs. At this moment some one stood up and started to pray in a loud, strong voice.

They thanked God for their ability to stand strong and peacefully in the face of injustice. They said that the police had no need to be afraid as we were peace loving people. They thanked the United States for being a good land to live safely in. And finally, they thanked CHP for doing such a good job, keeping our building safe. They prayed to God to protect every one, from the police officers to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the people suffering in war torn regions. At this moment, the spirit of the room changed.

I could visibly see the tension of the police officers leave. They no longer felt the need to intimidate. The Quakers have a saying that “The Light came into the room.” And I could feel that. The bullhorn went away. And police officers crouched or sat on the ground in order to have conversations with the people they were arresting. The officers told folks that they could move along and not get arrested. They gently helped people up from the ground and gave them an option of whether they wanted to be handcuffed in the front or the back.

Those of us who were not getting arrested, were polite and professional as well. We followed directions well and thanked the officers for their work. We clapped for every one getting arrested. One by one, each of our 41 participants were handcuffed, had their picture taken and were gently led to the police vans. They were then all taken to jail.

Back at our hospitality site, we could only wait. We called each of the contacts for the arrested and let them know what we knew—which was not much. We expected a minimum of 4 to 8 hours of holding time. But after only 2 hours of waiting, we found that people were already getting released! Reports from those getting released showed that CHP continued to act in a professional and peaceful manner. They moved people along, giving them an option to Post and Forfeit—a legal option similar to a traffic violation or parking ticket. Just four hours after the first arrest, every one was released. All but three people took the Post and Forfeit, choosing instead to take this case to trial.

Like I said before, I have seen a lot of CD’s end in arrest. I have seen police officers get tough and mean. Once, a White House Police officer threatened to hit me with his cruiser! I have seen people being held in uncomfortable situations, sometimes for hours. I have never before seen such a beautiful, respectful, honor filled and peaceful action as this one. My compliments go to every one involved, activists and officers alike for respecting the inherent worth and dignity and the divine spirit of every one in that room.

Leap Into Action Day

This Friday is a leap day–an event that happens only every four to eight years. That means the month of February is one day longer than it usually is. This is due to the fact that the actual length of time it takes for the Earth to circle to sun is actually approximately 365.242 days. The modern algorithm to calculate leap years was developed in the 16th century by St. Gregory in order to keep the vernal equinox as close to March 21st as possible.

What exactly does this mean for people like you and me? Well, it means that Friday, not Thursday, is the last day of February. That means you have been given one extra day in the month to Leap into Action!

Leap into Action Day was created in 2004 by a group of Radical Anarchists in the San Francisco Bay Area in order to encourage people to reclaim their extra day and do something different. In encouraging people to do something different, they hope a cultural change would occur. They hope people would find that they liked working for change and justice.

I would like to encourage you to do something different and thoughtful on February 29th, 2008. There are loads of different things you could do on Leap Day. Why don’t you do something to better yourself or your community? Spend your day working for social justice! Spend your day volunteering with local aid organizations. Help your local community by working with a homeless shelter or feeding the hungry. Tutor at an after school program. Or pick up litter in your neighborhood. You could register to be a poll worker.

You could also learn a new skill. Three years ago, I learned how to knit. Now I like to trade scarves and hats for personal favors, like haircuts or books or things like that. I think I might learn how to crochet on my leap day. But you could also build a project out of wood. Or dust off your old sewing machine and make someone in your life a tote bag.

You could also start a garden. Vegetable patches and window boxes are a great way to add freshness to your surroundings and food. If you already garden, think about composting. Composting keeps tons of waste out of landfills and goes back into your garden for an inexpensive boost to your vegetables and flowers. Or you could start a worm farm in your basement.

You could also go for a hike in your local national park. You could visit a museum in town. You bike a new bike trail or take your dog for a walk a different way than usual. You could try a new recipe from a cook book you haven’t opened in years or use an ingredient you have never used before. You could write a letter to a friend. You could call a family member out of the blue. You could make a collage out of old newspapers and magazines. You could clean out your closet and donate old things to Goodwill. You could go to the library and check out a stack of children’s books. The options are endless.

But whatever you do, don’t waste your extra day! Do something different! Do something new! Do something daring and exciting. Leap into action on your leap day!

Interfaith Peace Witness and 10,000 Feet of Hope

On March 7th, thousands of faithful peace activists will converge on Washington DC in order to pray for peace. Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Quakers and Unitarian Universalists will worship, pray and march together in the name of peace and justice.

Sponsored by the Olivebranch Peace Partnership, an interfaith coalition of religious peacemakers of which the Unitarian Universalist Association is a member, this rally will bring a religious voice that will speak truth to power.

As religious people who love creation, peace and equality, we are tired of an illegal and immoral war in the Middle East. We are disgusted by thousands of displaced refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are embarrassed by the dehumanizing effects of war on our citizen soldiers and the terrible treatment of our veterans after their return home. And we are afraid of future wars with no planned end.

Unitarian Universalists will gather together on March 7th at All Souls, Unitarian in Washington DC where they will hear the inspiring words of our President, Rev. William G. Sinkford along with Rev. Robert Hardies and guests from the Unitarian Universalist Community. We will then join the larger interfaith community in the shadow of the Capitol Building.

As a united voice, we will call for an end to this war and promote peaceful means to transform our conflicts.

For more information on this event, please visit http://www.olivebranchinterfaith.org and download our flier.

We recognize this may not be an event that all can attend. However, even if you cannot be there in person, your congregation’s thoughts and prayers for peace can be present with our 10,000 feet of hope.

We are asking all religious communities to send a rope with prayers and hopes for peace tied to it to be sent to Washington DC. We will then take these ropes-of-hope and encircle the Capitol Building with our prayers for peace.

Please send your Rope-of-Hope by March 1st to:
10,000 Feet of Hope
c/o Clarendon Presbyterian Church
1305 N. Jackson St.
Arlington, VA 22201

And may we all share in a prayer for peace.

Have We Won Yet?

My original intention was to name this blog post, We Have Won The War: Now, Let’s Finish The Job. But I know it is dangerous to be declaring “Mission Accomplished” too soon. And what I really mean is this: the anti-war movement has done an amazing job. And we might as well call this one a success.

But…wait! What do I mean by calling the movement a success? The war is still raging. Troops are still on the ground. The budget for the battles is skyrocketing. The death toll is high. And there is no end in sight. How could it be that we have succeeded?

And you are right on all those points. Time wise, we have put our troops in harm’s way somewhere between the active combat eras of World War II and Viet Nam. We still have troops in Korea, stationed on the Demilitarized Zone—that place between North and South Korea where American Troops keep patrol, fifty years later. Talk of another “Surge” strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is frightening because, just like Korea, there seems to be no way out.

People turn to me and ask: What is wrong with Your generation? Why aren’t they out in the streets like Viet Nam?

Massive rallies and protests like we saw in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s are important and crucial tactics necessary to the success of a movement. But they are not the movement. Being wed to a tactic is counterintuitive and counterproductive to the growth of a movement. Without lobbying, creating new alternatives for social structures and international relations, gathering research and support, or working with changing landscapes, a movement will become mired in a crisis mode. No sustainable growth can come out of that.

Being stuck in one strategy creates room for dangerous tactics. Movements begin to find themselves panicking with the fear that nothing is happening. That the cause is dying and that we need one last radical—and often violent—grasp at success. But destructive tactics often alienate and burn out people who are loyal to the movement, thus causing more harm than good. Power holders know this and know how to capitalize on opponents’ radical tactics to help discredit the people’s movement.

While it is extremely important to keep focused on all our goals, ignoring our success in this struggle is deadly for the success of the movement. People’s movements take time. They work to create the small changes that make up the big changes. We cannot expect a few protests and rallies to change things overnight. As Mr. Rogers once said, “All things that are worthwhile surely do take a while.”

What if a five-year-old just completes Hop on Pop by herself for the first time? Do you hand her Proust next? What if your seven-year-old takes the training wheels off his bike? Do you send him to the Tour Du France? Sustainable social change takes time.

Rather, at this time when it looks like movement is coming to an end, we must reject nihilistic strategies and count our successes. Giving up due to an apparent “failure” will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. But counting our successes gives us the spiritual recharge necessary to counteract the feelings of burnout.

So what exactly have we done in less than five years? The successes are many. They include but are not limited to:

Participation rates of national protests may have slipped but local, grassroots efforts have increased. Organizations like Iraq Veterans Against War, Women Against Military Madness, and Military Families Speak Out have started. And older organizations like War Resistors League, American Friends Service Committee, and The School of Americas Watch have all seen increased participation. All of these organizations are working hard to create sustainable, lasting social change. This war has left an extremely bitter taste in our mouths. Real change to prevent future wars is done by institutions and individuals utilizing a plethora of techniques and tactics.

Do not be disappointed by the lack of success the movement has seen. Be proud of all the things we have done! As a movement, we have repeatedly countered the tactics of the power holders. We have stood up for real American values. We have put pressure on our government to end this war and bring every one home safely. And while there is much to do, so much has already been completed. Be proud of your anti-war movement; have faith in it.