The Grassroots vs. The Drones (Happy 4th)

July 2nd, 2010 by Justin Kemerling
[caption id="attachment_2144" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Get your yard sign."][/caption] A COMMUNITY COLLABORATION Here's one for you: a designer, a programmer, a community organizer, a communications task force and a group of committed peace and justice types ranging from well-seasoned academics to bright-eyed progressives get together to advocate for a better world. It's a collaboration of the first order with high-minded goals concerning matters of crucial importance. The focus is how to make a peace and justice organization more effective at making peace and justice happen. In the back of a local coffee shop, huddled over the local paper with some veggie sandwiches and fair trade coffee, the plotting and scheming goes strong once a week for many months. Usually in good spirits, with lively discussion and debates about how a little non-profit organization moves forward, what has come out of the effort has been something quite remarkable. We certainly accomplished a streamlining our communications efforts, developing a new website, creating several media campaigns to stoke the political fires and training key staff members on technology that can be used to keep things current. But there's also been a rejuvenation of the collective spirit. I saw what I thought was glowing from several people at one of the last meetings. It could be because we've finally seen the sun out here in the Midwest, but I like to think it's been this whole "working together" thing that's the root cause of the newly intense hues. [caption id="attachment_1949" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="A bumper sticker for every bumper in Nebraska"][/caption] Hang out in Lincoln long enough, especially downtown, and you'll come across several deep blue bumper stickers reading "Nebraskans for Peace." It's probably one of the most successful bumper sticker campaigns in American history. And a nice visual mark of identity in the community. (If anybody needs one, I'm sure I can get a couple dozen by the end of the day to whomever's asking.) In the back of that local coffee shop, a rag tag bunch of liberal peaceniks responsible for those stickers got together to grow this organization. And in between deep conversations about the sad state of affairs for America's foreign policy, I'd say success has been had. We set out many months ago to make Nebraskans for Peace the best damn peace and justice group it could be, building on the old school tactics of political organizing while embracing some 21st century digital activism. And today, we are moving ahead as planned. At the beginning of the process, a communications plan was put together. Nebraskans for Peace is the oldest group of this nature in the country, so we needed to re-establish core principles and look at the changing landscape, both in political and technological terms. There are definitely things the organization does well, and of course, other things not-so-much. But coming back to the focus on community building, education and political action, after 40 years of existence, 2010 certainly was an appropriate time to look at making this little non-profit better at being a voice for change out here on the great plains. [caption id="attachment_1980" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Communications Overview for 2010"][/caption] To make Nebraskans for Peace better at what it does, we looked at four areas: online, in hand, via telephone, and face to face. A new website that can be easily updated by anyone working for the organization. A continued push for thoughtful articles and stories in the bi-monthly publication called the Nebraska Report. A renewed effort at phone conversation and dialogue with the membership and an increased presence in the community with rallies, marches and protests as well as more yard signs and bumper stickers. (Have a sticker already, how about one for your neighbor's car?) All four areas are currently being carried out feverishly. Give it a year or two, with all of our streamlined advocacy, and war will most likely cease to be acceptable and will thus have to end as more and more people rush over to our side. The two wars America is mired in are certainly one of the issues that brings people to the group. But as a peace and justice organization, the tent is meant to be big, and includes issues dealing with the environment, civil rights and economic justice and bullying in our schools. Broad thinking on global issues certainly informs the Priorities, but how they apply locally is where the most impact can be had. If Nebraskans for Peace isn't concerned about the military base just down the road that's conducting warrantless wiretaps on our citizens or orchestrating drone strikes on Afghans, then who else will be? [caption id="attachment_2146" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Stop the Drones"][/caption] It's the grassroots versus the drones. Those drone planes that drop bombs indiscriminately on villages. The tea party droners who go on and on about government spending but have yet to make a peep about our bloated war budgets. And those war hawk droners who love to hold up all the marvels of our technological prowess as if that's the high point of human accomplishment -- dropping a bomb in Yemen from a control panel in Nebraska. [caption id="attachment_2145" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="The new, shiny NebraskansforPeace.org"][/caption] The website is the online arm of the group. Carrying articles of in-depth analysis as well as graphic campaigns designed to get to the heart of bigger issues. The military base is in our community, but those drones belong to everybody. Drones that carry quite an expensive price tag. [caption id="attachment_1953" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Goin' Broke Paying for War"][/caption] The "Goin' Broke Paying for War" campaign has become a focus in these times of seemingly unending war. It's especially appropriate as the worry about deficits grows and the cries against "big government" get louder. The fact is this: if you want to cut down on our debt you cannot do it without cutting our war budget. We spend an absurd amount on blowing things up. Way more than we spend on kids, the elderly, our roads or sick people combined. It's really kind of sad, building up all that weaponry while the livingry is left to fight over table scraps. It's as if we're out for a crazy night at the carnival thinking our time in the bounce house never stops. We just keep jumping up and down, laughing and giggling as our bodies flail about. Perpetual motion, getting "massive air". On and on, forever and ever. That is, until China won't lend us money any more and the whole things deflates. Out there in a dessert. And there we are, with a case of motion sickness and no sense of direction. [caption id="attachment_2143" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="As many as you need."][/caption] It's Fourth of July time in 2010 and the battle of ideas in America continues to go on. One side is saying we spend too much, therefore strip down government. Cut medicare, privatize social security and really take on the deficit. The other side simply says, stop spending all our money on war. That's the side I'm on. The side that says enough of these stupid, pointless wars, 700+ military bases all over the world and this thirst for empire that's done so all other countries will do what we say. C'mon, it's just not a 21st century way to behave. Goin' Broke indeed. Because of all the war we've got goin' on. It seems too easy anymore, talking to my conservative friends who think we can't afford Universal Health Care. My response: shift priorities and we got it no problem. So my question now is, can there be common ground? Is the Tea Party and the Coffee Party set for a union of sorts? Perhaps Obama's push for bipartisanship is rubbing off on me. Really though, the problems we face are large. Structural problems that exist at the core of our country, whether in education, economy, environment, foreign policy or our general sense of unhelpful exceptionalism. They require a large effort in response. The "fix" cannot just exist along the margins. It must be a full-on assault of all our best intentions from everywhere by everyone. With so much uproar brewing over our debt, it just may be the thing to bring together far left and far right in a very kumbaya moment. In the back of that little coffee shop it can all certainly seem insignificant. The anti-war movement in general can seem insignificant. The noise it's made over the last decade hasn't really accomplished much. Though we didn't have a major cable news network to back us. But still. One can easily become disheartened. Feelings of futility sink in. It seems like nothing is happening. And nothing is going to change. But that's really not true. It's just self-inflicted drama grabbing hold. Take an honest assessment, and things are getting better. At least for this little community of collaborators. The general agitators that enjoy each other's company enough to make the little incremental movements that assure the rest of the population that yep, we peaceniks are out here. Still making noise. As long as there's war to be had, they'll be peace to throw at it. So from the designer, the programmer, the community organizer, the communications task force and the group of committed peace and justice types, here's to a better world. -- Justin Kemerling, Designer. justinkemerling.com

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3 Responses to “The Grassroots vs. The Drones (Happy 4th)”

  1. Caitlin B. Flaherty Says:

    Overall, this is excellent. I’m excited to hear about your passion, as it is my own, the path to peace/nonviolence.

    Working in this very field actively for the past seven years, I would like to offer to a friendly suggestion to take a look at the use of language for either fostering peace or flaming resistance. Name calling and/or labeling groups and people, in my experience, is self defeating for our cause. Marshall Rosenberg developed a program (and book) called, Non Violent Communication. Until we in the ‘peace movement’ are willing to examine and change those areas within ourselves whereby we fan the flames we look to extinguish, we will not be successful.

    One of the most severe problems facing the peace movement today is that we have tons of nonprofit organizations set up, often within each state, to deal with all aspects of violence in those communities however, very few of those organizations work with each other to strengthen their cause. This, in large part, is a very fractured movement. In my opinion, the left hand needs to grasp the hand of the right hand in order to successfully propel this movement forward to completion.

    For example, there already exists a national organization called, The Peace Alliance, whose mission, for simplicity is, “to research, articulate and facilitate nonviolent solutions to domestic and international conflicts by creating a cabinet level of the Executive Branch, Dept. of Peace.” There is currently a bill in congress, HR808, which lays out what this cabinet will look like.

    Locally, your organization is doing the work of the Dept. of Peace yet, without being able to utilize or benefit from this, as yet, cabinet level department because it does not currently exist.

    I invite your organization to join The Peace Alliance and be a part of the bigger picture. Alone, we will not accomplish much quickly but together, we can make history!

    I enjoyed this article very much and am in a position to see, on a daily basis, just how many individuals and organizations are taking a stand for peace/nonviolence. No thanks to mainstream media, there are many of us working towards the same goal. We all just need to come together and create the cohesiveness that is needed to move forward.

    Great work, I hope you will consider joining forces with us and continuing to be a change agent for this planet.

    Yours in peace,
    Caitlin

  2. tina f kennedy Says:

    Hi Catlin,
    You are exactly right, I have always been a peacemaker, and see the best in everyone, and I honestly feel that’s the only way we are going to change our planet. War has never been a good answer, it only bought greed, and poverty, and we need peace and love for all.

  3. Justin Kemerling Says:

    Thank you Caitlin and Tina for your interest in the article. We will definitely look into the Peace Alliance and ways to be involved with the “bigger picture.” There’s plenty of things we can work on. Making sure our efforts build on the efforts of others working toward peace is certainly crucial for more effective outcomes.

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