Surely, they couldn’t be talking about any peace march here,
I’d thought. The cashier with his black spiked hair, matching
black attire, and silver spiked belt looked more like an anarchist
then an advocate of peace. A friend next to me mumbled, “A peace
march? Here?” While another, a political science major at HPU,
interjected, “I think I heard something about it.” Obviously,
the boat had sailed, quite peacefully, without us and I was
curious. When it was my turn to order, I initiated conversation.
Nick Tree, the cashier, had been what he called the “head agitator.”
This position gave him the responsibility of controlling the
crowd of 1,300 people, by keeping them enthusiastic and steering
them away from hostility. “I got picked because I can yell really
loud,” Tree said proudly. He’s been doing this for almost eight
years now with an organization called Refuse and Resist.
Eight years? This kind of thing has happened here before? Where
have I been?
Nick Tree is not his real name. “We never use our real names,”
he revealed later. I made the connection that perhaps this was
a measure taken as a result of the dangers protesters can face.
Historically, those marching for peace have been imprisoned
and even subjected to violence.
Today’s peace movement has evolved with the issues. Alternet.org
reported recently that unlike efforts of the ‘60s, no static
counter-culture lifestyles blur today’s message. The slogan,
“Make love, not war” has been replaced with “Make peace, not
Tree explained that anti-war sentiment has made its way into
all walks of life. “Anarchists, communists, students, parents,
grandparents, and babies in strollers were all out there. It’s
not just a bunch of tree-hugging people anymore,” he said. Later,
while watching local news coverage on the march, I saw a clip
of my Spanish professor, Seńora Tess Lane, marching along with
For someone who considered herself concerned about world issues,
I was pretty lost. When had we stopped looking for Osama? When
had Iraq become our scapegoat for the horrors of September 11?
War? Wasn’t that something they were merely talking about as
a measure against terrorism? With no cable at home, my only
access to TV was at the gym. There are multiple screens to choose
from while running on the treadmill, but I always seem to choose
The Bachelorette over CNN. Of course I knew stuff was going
on in the world, but how exactly did any of it pertain to me?
After talking to Tree, I decided is was time to pop my own
bubble. My self-absorbed outlook left me confused about pertinent
events that could affect me and all Americans, today and in
the future. Sure, I knew a little about politics and the U.N.,
but those bits left me a couple pieces short of a complete picture.
I had been reluctant to form any definite opinions about the
concepts of the new war and the new peace, because really, I
knew very little about either side. I realized that being “concerned”
about world issues and getting involved are two very different
Nick Tree was the catalyst that sparked my curiosity about
the new peace movement. How could I call myself an aspiring
journalist, let alone an American citizen, and have such limited
knowledge of current events. I decided to do some research.
Tree directed me to an umbrella group called Not In Our Name.
This organization has chapters in states across the country
and is responsible for organizing events that bring people together
for peace. The first line in its statement of conscience says:
“Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing
when their government declared a war without limit and instituted
stark new measures of repression.” Well, if that’s what they
see coming, then I’m with them.
From there, I typed the word “peace” in a search engine and
found a multitude of organizations and groups, many of which
supply tools to those trying to organize events in their area.
The resources were limitless.
One particular site, www.globalexchange.org, provided a list
of the top 10 reasons not to invade Iraq. The number one reason
was that there is no justification for going to war. This was
backed up with statements such as, “There has been no attack
on the United States, no Iraqi threat of war, no Iraqi connection
to September 11.” For me, this site solidified the importance
of peace, making the issues more concrete.
Before writing this I talked to a friend and fellow HPU student
about her views on the dark war cloud that looms ahead. “The
idea of it terrifies me,” she said. When I asked her if she
was involved in any peace groups she responded, “No, but I feel
like I should be.” Like me, she was concerned. But I’m confident
that given the opportunity, she’d get involved.
Advocates of the ‘60s peace movement were primarily students,
horrified at the prospect of a draft that would take them to
blood-drenched Vietnam. College campuses across the country
were emblazoned with anti-war sentiment. Sure, shots have yet
to be fired, but the peace movement has already begun. Will
it take something personal to get us involved? Why should I
wait until my stepfather, an officer in the army, is called
to serve in the Middle East, before I choose a side to support?
It’s either war or peace. Neutrality is not for me.