Marching for Peace and Principles

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, a social networking site on the Internet. People have the option of listing their political beliefs as part of their profiles. I am astonished at how many people put “apathetic” as their response. As far as I am concerned, “apathetic” is pathetic.

In particular, I am talking about involvement in the antiwar movement. When it comes to working for peace, complacency is simply not an option. Our government’s foreign policy affects so many things, from where our tax money is going, to the basic immorality of imposing our standards and values on the people of another country (otherwise known as imperialism).

Sometimes, upon further probing, some of these “apathetic” people actually sympathize with the peace movement, but find it futile to get involved. In no particular order, here are some of the reactions I get from others when I tell them about my involvement with the peace movement:

Your actions won’t make a difference.
The 60s are over.
Why put yourself up for such ridicule?

Even amongst some peace people, complacency has replaced idealism. Some of the older folks who protested in earlier decades felt that their actions achieved nothing, and so they decided there was no point in continuing down the same path.

Wrong, wrong wrong.

A fundamental principle of life that hopefully we all should share is that it is important to stand up for what we believe in. Thus, it follows that if we believe in peace, we should make a stand. After all, people flock by the hundreds to attend the “Red Friday” pro-war rallies that are periodically held in Churchill Square. We, as antiwar people, should not be afraid to take as bold of a stand.

One way to take such a visible stand is by taking part in a peace march. Major peace marches are generally held in Edmonton twice a year — in the Fall coinciding with the date that Canada invaded Afghanistan, and in the Spring when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Sometimes emergency actions spring up at other times, depending what is going on in different parts of the world.

However, the numbers of people in Edmonton who attend such events is rather small, likely for many of the same arguments mentioned previously. To the position that peace marches accomplish little, look at it this way: a peace march is visible resistance to war. It is a very public demonstration of one’s convictions, and sends a message to the government in a very “in your face” kind of way.

Other, quieter ways to protest against war include signing petitions, which nowadays is quick and easy since many of them are online. You can write letters to your Member of Parliament, or even to the Prime Minister himself. Postage costs nothing on letters send to the federal government.

Who is to say we are accomplishing nothing? Each individual has enough of a sphere of influence to make tangible changes in he world around him or her. I am pretty confident that I have gotten friends and acquaintances to reevaluate their positions, or at least think about certain issues a bit more than they normally would.

Speaking of peace marches, the next major one is going to take place on March 15. To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we will be marching the reverse route from the huge protest in 2003 that drew 18, 000 people. We will be starting at the Legislature at 1:00 p.m. and heading to Churchill Square for a rally featuring speakers and musicians (www.ecawar.org). Hope to see you there!

Paula is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. She is also a member of the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR). You can reach her at: starvingwriter@hotmail.com.