It was understandable after 9/11 that there was a sharp rise in national anxiety, a condition that prevailed up to and through the invasion of Iraq. Public anxiety can sometimes lead to the birth of a peace movement, but almost always it leads to excessive nationalism, paranoia, and a lashing out at real or imaginary enemies. Those symptoms seem to be subsiding now. The widespread disillusionment over the war is a sign that people are returning to a sense of normality, but times are early and this normality is fragile, as witness the paranoia over the Dubai ports affair.
Life will become more normal as the following signs begin to appear;
--Politicians will feel safe speaking out against the war as a folly, without risking their own careers. This has begun to happen, of course, but one notices that the Democratic Party remains skittish about fielding anything like an anti-war presidential candidate with a viable alternative to ending the Iraq conflict.
--Irrational threats will be sorted out from rational ones. Saddam was an irrational threat, Al Qaida isn't. By conflating the two, the administration acted immorally and with tremendous lack of responsibility. It will be important to see if a leader steps forward to steer public opinion into saner channels.
--Warmakers will be held accountable for their deceptions. This hasn't happened, and given the tight control of the Republican Congress, the only redress may be public disgust and disillusion in the future. The future hasn't arrived, but there's already enough disgust and disapproval in the air to indicate that the public has come back to its senses.
--War will be seen as bad policy, even from a superpower that cannot be defeated. Iraq was a symptom of a right-wing vision in which the U.S. gained anything it wanted with military threats. That vision, amazingly enough, remains alive in warmaking circles, but Iraq did a great deal to discredit it, a very healthy sign.
--The most important sign that fear no longer dominates us, however, will be a return to America's progressive legacy and its willingness to be a leader in solving global problems. The current immigration controversy will test this, but so will global warming. The right wing may succeed in fending off progress during the remainder of the Bush administration, weakened though it may be, but the alarming news about global warming and the inevitability of illegal immigration from a poor, overpopulated country like Mexico promises that we can't bury our head in the sand much longer.
These are only a few signs of normalcy, and one can expect the right wing to beat the drums of fear a while longer. However, for them to fail in the future, each of us has to become a one-person peace movement, not by taking to the streets but by countering our own personal fear and seizing the chance for a normal life whenever it presents itself. Today's peace movement begins with finding your own core of peace.