[co-authored with Susan Chenelle of United for Peace and Justice; see below.]
A clear majority of the people of this country want decisive steps to end the Iraq war now, not years from now, as the Pentagon is planning. As the Christian Science Monitor noted recently, the public reached its verdict on the Iraq war long ago, and hasn't been swayed by President Bush's speeches or the proclamations of his generals that success is around the corner.
Unfortunately, that majority opinion has not yet translated into effective action by the Congress. As has become abundantly clear, poor poll numbers and approval ratings are not enough to bring about the end of an illegal, immoral war and occupation. September, which was supposed to be the big turning point for Congress on Iraq, is looking a lot like July and March, when near-unanimous Republican congressional opposition and the lack of unanimous Democratic congressional fortitude prevented effective action. To force a decisive change in government policy, we have to make the antiwar majority more active, more visible, more difficult to ignore. We have to stand up vigorously against the cynicism that says: there is nothing we can do.
On October 27, people across the United States will step forward to do just that. Gathering in 11 cities - Boston, Chicago, Jonesborough, Tenn., Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle -- the people will demonstrate that opposition to the Iraq war's continuation and Congress' failure to end it is strong and ready to take action in every corner of the country.
Regional demonstrations are a key tool for making participation more accessible to the many. They don't require a huge commitment of time and resources to participate. A substantial proportion of the U.S. population lives within a few hours of these 11 cities by train, bus, or car. Fifteen percent of the U.S. population - more than 40 million people - live in the "Northeast Corridor" that includes Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Some 25 million, another ten percent, live in the vicinity of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another 10 million live in the Chicago area. More than 10 million live in eastern Texas, within a day's drive of New Orleans. Many of these folks can attend a regional demonstration on October 27 without taking off work, making child care arrangements, finding a place to stay or shelling out a lot of money.
Regional demonstrations are also more likely to generate diverse media coverage.
But the main issue is participation. Most of the anti-war majority is not active, and may have never attended an anti-war demonstration. We need to turn them on and turn them out. Attending a public rally is an entry-level political activity. It doesn't require confidence in public speaking, facility with writing, familiarity with political events. It just requires an ability to stand or sit, walk or roll, hold a sign or wear one - something most people know that they have.
So, check your calendar. What are you doing on October 27? If you're not planning to attend a regional demonstration against the war, what's holding you back? A bus from your community may already be organized - check the links above. If not, organize your own carload or rent a van and split expenses. Talk your best friend into going. Recruit someone you know who has never attended a demonstration, or who hasn't been to one in a while. Get the social concerns committee of your religious institution or your labor union political action committee involved. It might be easier than you think - your national denomination or labor union may already be a sponsor.
Participating in public demonstrations is good for you. It's fun, it's satisfying, you meet wonderful people, it improves your physical and mental health. It's a great adventure. And mounting effective public demonstrations against the war is our moral responsibility.