Thursday, November 22, 2007

Suits in the Streets

The task in a couple of Mondays for the Lansing, Michigan (USA) peace community will be discussion and strategizing – with some social time tossed in for good measure – in an effort to find more effective ways to work for Peace. Bring a friend, a salad, and your best idea to stop the inevitable attack on Iran.

I may or may not show up with my salad on December 3rd. In the meantime, I will be pondering the dilemma faced by the peace community in Lansing and other locales around the United States: the continuing apathy among vast portions of our citizenry, all while we steadily lose our pensions, our health insurance, our civil liberties, our middle class, our homes, and our vote, just to name a few dissipating American advantages.

In contrast, “people power” is pushing forward in hot spots around the globe. Of course, most people in the U.S. get few of the details of people power on the march (and the details that slip through the corporate media filters are severely distorted).

For example, Pakistan’s military strongman, dictator, and Bush-Cheney puppet, General Pervez Musharraf is being contested in the streets by the Pakistani citizens. The revolt has been led, in large part, by Pakistani lawyers, who have stood for democracy and the rule of law. In return, these Pakistani “Suits” have been met with police violence.

In France this past week, workers have gone on strike protesting the proposed erosion of their pension system by their new rightwing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, the newest Bush-Cheney darling on the international stage. Transit workers, utility workers, civil servants – including teachers, tax collectors, hospital workers, custom officials, and postal workers – have supported the strike. The outcome of this struggle will be interesting, as the French people face off against their new President who rode to electoral victory on a fear-mongering, anti-immigrant platform (guess which American political party will use this strategy in its election playbook in 2008?).

And, finally, the Burmese are led by, of all people, the monk community against their repressive government. They, too, have been met with brutal police violence for their efforts. American “president” George Bush made his cursory statement about the situation in Burma and, like the situation in Darfur, he and his do-nothing administration have reacted like the foreign policy amateurs they truly are.

All three examples – and there are many others around the globe – are tremendous testaments to people’s refusal to concede their freedom, dignity, and rights to oppressive political regimes.

In the Greater Lansing area, I have worked with a good number of brave people from the legal community, spiritual communities, and other freedom-loving citizens on peace and justice actions. Still, we are confronted with the challenge of getting over the big hurdle of apathy. It seems our eyes are “wide shut” when it comes to America’s on-going torture policy, secret prisons, domestic spying, illegal foreign military invasions and…well the list of lawlessness goes on and on.

So it remains: What will it take to get our Suits in the street? What government transgression will it take for the local priests and ministers in our community to slip from the thumbs of their biggest donors to join us in our public outrage? When will public servants, teachers, and environmentalists join forces to meet our common challenges together?

I’ll finish my salad and get back to you.

-- Rico Thomas Rico

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