A Moratorium Wired to Stop the War | The Nation


A Moratorium Wired to Stop the War

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Macro Protest, Micro Protest

About the Author

Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith is an journalist, oysterman and labor activist. He is co-founder of Global Labor Strategies, a consulting...
Jeremy Brecher
Jeremy Brecher’s new book Save the Humans? Common Preservation in Action, just published by Paradigm...

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Since the US invasion of Iraq, except for a small corps of antiwar activists, efforts to bring demonstrators to the streets have consistently faltered. The Moratorium idea developed in recognition of the fact that the antiwar movement needs to adapt to the forms of self-expression that people find most congenial today--even if they are very different from the mass mobilizations that drew people in the past.

If people go to Amazon instead of the bookstore, Netflix instead of the movie theater and MySpace to meet new friends, perhaps the media and the antiwar movement shouldn't just be counting how many people show up at demonstrations in Washington, DC, to measure the scope of social protest.

Micro-resistance may well be the mobilization of the future, with people exploring new kinds of protest wherever they can, whether at the computer or on the local street corner. If so, the question for organizers is how to connect and amplify the thousands of antiwar micro-activities that go unnoticed every day.

The Iraq Moratorium could link and amplify the micro-protests as varied as Joseph DeLappe's online activism and the small but eloquent voice of Cameron Penny.

Penny, a 12-year-old poet from Michigan, likewise exemplifies the principle: "Cast down your protest where you may." A poem he wrote stunned the audience at a Poets Against the War reading in New York City:

If you are lucky in this life
A window will appear on a battlefield between two armies
And when the soldiers look into the window
They don't see their enemies
They see themselves as children
And they stop fighting
And go home and go to sleep
When they wake up, the land is well again.

Can a moratorium work today? The Iraq War, fought with a volunteer army, so far hasn't sparked the level of college protests students felt then, with the draft breathing down their necks. But opposition to presidential war policy is far more widespread now than in 1969, when Americans supported President Nixon's handling of the Vietnam war two to one.

To some, Penny's poem represents merely the innocent dreams of a child; DeLappe's actions may seem little more than a gesture of high-tech despair. But if the Moratorium can link a child poet's dream of peace, an artist's interference and a Pentagon war game, it might also open a virtual window on a very real battlefield.

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