Message To Friends

by Eli Beckerman

January 19, 2004


I am writing out of fear, out of sadness, but mainly, out of hope.

On my trip to the French Alps by way of Budapest in March 2003, I was riding on a bus through Northern Italy just a few days after my country started a war with Iraq. My senses and emotions were roaring as I noticed the gorgeous rainbow peace flags strewn from every building. Every single building had at least one of these flags dangling from a balcony; many had dozens. I had been aware of Italy's Peace From Every Balcony campaign: Pace da tutti balconi! But this was the first time seeing it with my eyes, and all its meaning was transformed ten times over, as Shock and Awe had taken place.

My bus was full of Hungarians whose country was among the coalition of the willing; yet these Hungarians were far from "willing." Italy too was one of the willing, and yet the Italians were quite vocally unwilling. Their peace flags said it all. Indeed, support among the British people was astonishingly low for a nation which offered such strong rhetoric for the use of force as well as material and personnel support for this war. But amazingly, it was not people who mattered. Not the millions of us poor slobs who took to the streets on February 15 to say "NO!" to this misguided war, not the men and women who would bear its responsibilities as its fighters, and certainly not the men, women, and children who would bear its ultimate costs. Somehow, some way, this was a war for democracy.

Democracy is not pretty. It involves testing patience, it involves dirty work like counting ballots by hand when the machines have failed us, and it involves giving a microphone to your opponent to hear what she's got to say. In the case of the Iraq War, as was the case in George W. Bush's promotion to President of the United States, anti-democratic motives were cloaked in kind-hearted rhetoric. Bush used Florida operatives and an all-too-happy-to-appease Supreme Court to disregard the democratic will of Florida voters. And he used a grotesquely unrepresentative and disinterested Congress to jump into the war which had already been decided upon -- regardless of the work of UN weapons inspectors and regardless of the grave concerns of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide.

To call this a war for democracy is nauseating. To call it a war for security is profoundly naive. And to assume that shying away from the painful questions that are necessary to confront is somehow supportive of the warriors fighting this battle is tragically wrong.

Bush got to where he is on a whole pack of lies, but the one that sticks out to me now, most of all, is the one he uttered throughout his campaign for the Presidency. "I'm a uniter, not a divider." Well, I hate partisan politics as much as the next guy. But a quick look around has me wondering, who the hell does this guy think he can fool? Is this not the most divided you have seen this nation? This world? How much more contempt for American society can one man create than this reckless, thoughtless, fraud has in two years? And how much genuine good will towards our struggle for security can a single person squander?

We are on a dangerous path to oblivion, and I am not one for damnation talk. The only way I see to reverse course is to rise above the bitter divides and work together on a deliberate answer to the madness.

I am sick of feeling powerless and voiceless, and to this end, I have begun a Peace From Every Balcony campaign in my own backyard -- Somerville, Massachusetts. It is my hope that this will become a grassroots movement which champions democratic participation in our nation's policies, and sends a message to Bush, and to the rest of the world, that people do matter. Indeed, that is what democracy is all about.

The campaign's website is http://somerville.green-rainbow.org/peace.

Please consider buying a flag for $15 and helping us grow the Somerville Green-Rainbow Party as an alternative vision and voice. More importantly, consider putting a flag up for yourself, to make your own statement to your friends, your neighbors, and to the world: that we are all entitled to a say in our nation's policies and that in fact, peace and justice are incumbent upon it.

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Pace Da Tutti Balconi

Pictures of rainbow peace flags hanging around the world

Visit United for Peace to find peace and justice groups in your area

The International ANSWER coalition has information about peace events all around the U.S.


Eli Beckerman is a Green Party activist.

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Published January 19, 2004
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