Time for Different Action

Eisha Mason, Executive Director
Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence

Our peace and justice movements must take care not to fall into the same traps that we have warned American public about since 9-11. We must avoid the pitfalls of denial and deception and the immaturity of impatience. It's time for a different kind of action, if we are to grow in numbers, power, and effectiveness.

With the official new Gulf War supposedly behind us, so many people, who have written their Congresspersons, marched in the streets, courageously spoken out and organized their friends and neighbors, are sharing privately, “I don’t know what to do now; I don’t know what to think. I am not sure what I feel. I am sick. I am exhausted. I am depressed.” Others are working more and more intensely against the war, lacking a clear direction. Our actions to stop the war reached a fever pitch right up until the first official bombing raid; then, the wind got knocked out of us. So many of us have not realized that we are suffering from shock.

After 9-11, when 3000 lives were lost in a day, the progressive movement urged Americans to pause—to take time out to grieve before we made critical decisions. Take time to heal. Share our grief in community. Take time to reflect and find our “moral and spiritual center” so that we would not act recklessly.

Now, as we reel from the assault of war-as-entertainment, where there seems to be no suffering, no violence or bloodshed, those of us who oppose this war would be wise to pause, to be fully present with our outrage and our sadness, so that these unaddressed emotions do not govern us.

It’s time for a different kind of action--time to feel of our anger, attend to our grief, sit patiently in our confusion and courageously take care of our suffering. If we do, we will discover the reservoir of love and compassion that lies deep within us. Despair and anger weaken us; denial and repression of our suffering deplete our energy. But if we do the work now to heal and refresh ourselves, we will find that it is our love for humanity that makes us strong again.

It’s time for a different kind of action. We hear, “Saddam is gone. America is victorious!” No one is visiting Iraqi hospitals and no one seems to know about Iraqi casualties. Who cares what the war costs? We hear the words, “free” and “liberated” one hundred times a day.

It’s time to think. If we don’t know want what to think, turn off the TV and access alternative sources of information. We must find and listen to the deep knowing inside of us—our own truth, our own Heart. Deep inside, do we feel like celebrating? Do we feel “free?”

We must be wise enough, patient and disciplined enough, to listen deeply to our own source. By taking adequate time now to build our inner strength, clarity and resolve as well as our capacity to love, we prepare mentally and spiritually for what lies ahead. We prepare ourselves for a sustained effort.

We may not immediately affect how the world will think, but we can think for ourselves by re-visiting the principles on which we stand and evaluate the current events against those principles. We will not always affect what choices others will make or how they will respond, but we can re-dedicate ourselves to living by our deepest personal convictions.

It’s time for a different kind of action—time to focus. “They” have not won and “we” have not lost because Iraq is a means to an ends, not the “end” itself. We have challenged the American people not to be deceived by the focus of our attention on Iraq while the American democracy and economy is pillaged with repressive legislation and sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy. As we remain mindful of the context in which Iraq takes place—the Administration’s campaign for American global economic and military dominance--we must maintain our focus on our campaign--defending democracy at home and to advancing human dignity, justice and peace here and abroad.

It’s time for a different kind of action—time for patience, what Cesar Chavez called“the patience to win.” Americans have been warned that, despite appearances, this war cannot be instantly fought nor instantly won. Military and policy experts have warned us that the real challenge has only just begun. Did we peace activists buy into this myth—that we could have an instant and spontaneous victory?

We have challenged the American public to realize that the Bush Administration’s agenda—the War on Terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department—was not spawned in reaction to 9-11, but conceived at least ten years prior. The takeover of the Congress and Supreme Court and other strategic positions in federal government by right wing forces has been engineered over 30 years. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that we will challenge and defeat these forces in a few weeks or months. And let us not fool ourselves into believing that our entire response can be spontaneous. Nor can it continually in be reaction to Administration initiatives.

It’s time for a different kind of action. It’s time for our movement to mature --to be strategic, patient, organized and disciplined. In this way, we advance our agenda of peace, human rights, justice and international cooperation for all people of the world.

If we are wise, we will realize that even war has a rhythm--advance and retreat, breathing out, breathing in. We hurled ourselves into battle. Now it is time for analysis, study, and planning.

Now is the time for a different kind of action—time to refine our vision and our message, build leadership, strengthen our communities, diversify our tactics and gathering our resources. As we continue to heighten the contradictions between our country’s principles and its actions, now is the time for healing, thinking, planning and re-vitalizing ourselves for the next phase of our campaign.