(Written in 2003 in the first week of the US invasion of Iraq.)
At many of the anti-war events I have been to in the last short while, the overwhelming sentiment is that something called “peace” should happen as soon as possible. Many of the events themselves are billed as being “for peace” and many of the participants carry signs and banner that speak about peace. Logical, right? Well, I’m gonna come clean. I’m wary of this “peace” idea. I can’t quite put my finger on why — but when I try to, I come up with more questions than answers.
For one thing, when I see people of color at marches and rallies, I rarely see them holding signs or banners that talk about peace. I notice that their signs, instead, often talk about “justice.” Why?
Aren’t justice and peace the same thing? Are they? Is justice peaceful? Is peace just? What is peace? Is it just peace and no fighting? Is it no bombs? For example, if peace happens, is the U.S. still allowed to engage in covert activities in Colombia? Can the CIA topple Chavez in Venezuela? Is that peaceful or not? What about other army projects — can our forces still occupy Afghanistan or parts of the Philippines and have troops just about everywhere else under peace? Can there be a military under peace?
Does it mean that if the U.S. stops dropping bombs on Somalia . . . I mean, the Sudan . . . er, no, I forgot, Afghanistan . . . oops, what I meant to say was Iraq . . . then there is peace? Or does it mean that if we stop the sanctions, then there is peace? Does it mean if we pay the Iraqi people $5 for every child lost since we first dropped bombs on them however many years ago, that there would be peace? Do we pay taxes that go toward building stealth bombers and not our own health under peace? Will some of our children still be hungry in peaceful times? Is peace ours? Or does it belong to everybody else on earth, too? And does it belong to the earth itself?
All these questions and no answers. Meanwhile, I’m still hearing this thunderous white cry for Peace! Peace! Peace!
I think I’ve got it figured out, after all. In peacetime, we don’t have marches and rallies for the young women that work in maquiladoras for worse than shitty pay making all the shit we use to clothe our own well-fed young women. In peacetime, we don’t have much of a problem ignoring the plight of sweatshop workers in our own cities. In peacetime, we don’t need to discuss the fact that our most favored nation is China.
In peacetime, we don’t have to listen to what our best trade buddy China does to Tibet, or to its own people. In peacetime, it seems to be easier to ignore that our good friend Israel is the recipient of the hugest percentage of U.S. foreign aid, and to be unaware of the fact that Israel is not so quietly or covertly going about their own campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.
I wonder if the Palestinians thought the U.S. was at “peace” a few years ago when they began the latest intifada. In times of peace we don’t hear the ground we walk over every day screaming up at us, “What have you done!?” Most of the time, I’d venture that us white folks feel peaceful enough not to be bothered to look at the blood of the slaughtered indigenous peoples on our ancestors’ hands.
Maybe “peace” means that white people don’t have to hear about what our government does to other countries or what we’ve done inside our own borders. Maybe peace should otherwise be known as “free to go about our business without guilt nipping at our heels.” Maybe white people want peace because they hope it will keep death and danger at bay. When I see signs that say “Peace Now,” I often think to myself that it should read underneath, “(I am scared; I am guilty. I don’t want bad things to happen to me and my family.)”
My movement is the anti-imperialism, anti-oppression movement. I refuse to fight “for peace.” Does that sound angry? Does that sound uppity? Is that upsetting? I’m sorry if sounds that way, and let me be straight: I do not want war or killing, certainly not. But to ask another question, don’t we need justice more than we need a comfortable, air-conditioned, sound-tracked, airbrushed, leather-upholstered SUV-driving, sweatshop-clothes buying, racial profiling, meat-eating, bourgeois, mother-fucking peace?
If peace means that we go right back to the nightmare that we were living before we started dropping bombs this past week, then I don’t want peace, I want a revolution.