It is so lovely to spend the day with you passionate essential workers for peace, I am inspired by your commitment, the campaigns and your many years of work. Every day I am grateful to the amazing community that is Mass Peace Action. It is also awesome to be together to celebrate the victory of those who have created the conditions that we can all say nuclear weapons are illegal. That is firm ground to stand on, that is a shift in the narrative and we need to feel that and be nourished by it before we turn to look at the stupidity of those in power and those driven by greed who will ignore and deny this new reality. But we can't let them. The ground we stand on is firmer and has been created by those outside of the hegemony of the United States – we have those in the global south to thank and I hope we remember to keep them in our hearts during our activism and engagement here in the empire. As too many of them bare the brunt of the War Economy daily.
I come to you from the west coast of Turtle Island; the land of the Tongva peoples. Over 18 years ago I flew to DC to call CODEPINK with Medea Benjamin to George W Bush's colour-coded alerts frightening the US to war. I had a primal scream of NO to deliver outside the White House and ended up staying for 6 months and now over 18 years, as war begets violence, begets more atrocities. When Bush was threatening war on Iraq I was working in Watts, teaching life skills to gang members who had been left behind by an extremely racist system in Los Angeles. It was a place where 20,000 people had been killed in an inner-city war zone, from 1980 to 2000. I was working with Aqeela Sherrils who negotiated the peace treaty between the Crips and the Bloods before the Rodney King uprising. I learned from that work that the young men I was working with all had fathers who were soldiers in the failed war on Vietnam. That war had come home to our city and NO One acknowledged it or talked about it.
So I flew to DC to say NO to war, no to using the lives of innocent people to kill innocent people, no to killing for greedy needs and no to using taxpayers money for another failed invasion of another country; like Korea and Vietnam. Most people seemed to have forgotten the US lost those wars where millions of innocent people died.
We were in the streets, over 12 million of us globally saying no to war and it didn’t matter, against the most bald-faced outrageous lies. And we have watched the insanity of war, the volume of weapons and the amount spent on violence continue to escalate since. Because war is an addiction. That we have failed to take into detox. We just keep engaging with it like it will listen to reason. A few years ago at CODEPINK as we continued in our endless efforts to end war. We TRULY understood we will not end war until we end the war economy.
The war economy
The extractive, destructive, oppressive economy that is killing you, our communities and the planet. And that war economy is the tit too many suck at and think it is life-giving instead of witnessing the dystopian reality it is creating. Economy in greek the making of home. We can see the home the war economy has rendered. It is sick, it is dying, it is starving and it has torn to tatters the fabric of society.
But there is also a peace economy. It is the giving, sharing, caring, thriving, relational, regenerative, resilient economy without which none of us would be alive. And COVID really taught us, if we had forgotten, that it is the essential workers, who are all part of the peace economy, that are truly essential to life. But the war economy has devalued, privatized and squeezed the life out of them over the last 40 years.
As a peacemaker I ask myself daily, how am I creating conditions conducive for life?
At every level the war economy is destroying life. And war is serving it. So a reminder we can’t end war until we end the war economy.
At CODEPINK we have developed 21 ways to help you divest yourself from the war economy habits that we have been acculturated to, like frogs in the boiling water. Even as peacemakers we aren’t ourselves aware.
We have to take the lessons of divesting ourselves from the war economy to be tools for building this movement, and the power we need to strangle the war machine that has been strangling all life and the planet. You can find them www.CODEPINK.org/peaceeconomy
Today I want to talk about a few of the ways the war economy HABITS thrive.
The war economy creates the conditions for us to feel alienated and that we live in scarcity instead of abundance.
One of the habits we develop is being transactional and not relational? The war economy has forced us to behave transactionally to survive, we must break that pattern and become relational to build the movement we need. The culture of transaction creates the conditions that allow the warmongers to feed you lies that arise fears that can make you act against your own best interest or the best interest of others.
We can all learn from Reverend Barber. He took the time and attention with Moral Mondays to be relational to build trust, to present contradictions to the lies they were living with and acting from and affect the culture of his state, North Carolina. It was from that he and Reverend Liz Theoharis continued to cultivate those in the peace economy across the country with the Poor People's Campaign; a national call for a moral revival.
We are here working to end war because of our empathy, our love of others, our heartbreak at the injustice and violence and our desire for a healthy future for the planet and her people. We need to stay tapped into that. That needs to be reflected in how we treat each other and where our work for peace is rooted. Let that always be our tuning fork that others can attune to because to grow first we need to be coming from love.
To exercise our relationality we need to bring ourselves more closely related to our local communities. But relational with those who are the greatest effects of the war economy; those suffering the results of the war economy.
At CODEPINK we are cultivating our local peace economies as part of our work. If we truly know we can’t end war until we end the war economy then we must be cultivating what is missing, we must be cultivating the values of peace where we live.
We begin with Listening
It takes stepping back and listening. The war economy is full of hubris and the fulfilment of their needs at the cost of everyone else's. no one exists but the needs of the greedy war economy, no matter how rational and true the facts we raise about its abuse and violence and how it comes home to militarise the streets of our cities. It has a pattern not to listen; so ours must be to listen. To be effective in growing the movement, in growing the power we need. We must listen to those at the effects of the war economy.
Many of us are in peace communities together, we are here together today, being nourished, inspired and educated to be more effective in our work. But how to expand ourselves to also engage with those who are at the greatest effect of the war economy? Not as a transaction of how to use them for our needs, but to truly show up for them with love.
Wars start happening in history when societies become more complex. So we must start with the essentials, with the basics. What sustains life.
Food, Care, Love
In my community we discovered there were 3000 homeless youth, so we went with food on the weekends and over the months listened to their needs engaged the community in delivering on them. clothes, backpacks, condoms, health care and mental health counseling. All of this was rooted in love and understanding that the war economy thrives because they are homeless and it too won’t end until the war economy ends. This transformed our community. Food is grown along the sidewalks, those homeless youth have been employed and the model of loving them has become a transformative light to many in the entire city of LA. In a world where not in our back yard is the solution to the unhoused, the best piece of land near the beach has been allocated for housing for the unhoused. In the process a community has been educated to the war economy and will engage with us on contacting Congress to defund the pentagon. You too can join us to Plant Seeds of Peace locally, feeding those who are food insecure in your community while sharing what you know about the war machine and economy, and inviting them to make calls with you. codepink.org/1billionrisinggardens.
In the process, you are changing culture by being peace, by being a peace economy instead of a war economy. The war economy wins by people believing that it is all there is. Nourishing each other instead of the malnourishment of the war economy can change hearts and minds.
We have 3 areas we need to constantly be addressing.
Congress responds to culture and the will of the people when and only when they are not totally bought by the corporations. Yes we want to be putting our attention to Congress but we are small and now some of that attention has to go to becoming part of other movements and seeing how we can serve them AND GROW THE UNDERSTANDING OF WAR.
That means taking on the lies we swim in. Like; war doesn’t keep anyone safe or secure. It steals from the future and from the planet, and it rips the very fabric of society.
Where are the other movements working on the health of our communities; moving investing into that which is essential to life and healthy communities. Who is working to end private prisons, ending the militarization of our police and defunding the militarized police departments which embody the war machine and the militarism it has funded. Join with Black Lives Matter to defund the police and abolish prisons to get to our goal of defunding the Pentagon. It is now fully obvious that white supremacy which is the root of the war economy has fully infiltrated both the military and local policing. It is clear who their allegiances are to. Not to safety and security and the needs of the people. But white supremacy which is what the US is as it invades and bombs people of color across the world for its needs. How can members of congress now agree to fund that? After feeling that reality. Don’t worry they will come up with excuses.
Or another lie is that the money spent and the lack of transparency is all for national interest, and to care for US citizens. But it is not, it is and always has been to
to take care of those in power, the 1% and the corporations.
Find the movements taking on corporate greed and violence? Much of this work is in the environmental movements as the war economy is destroying the planet and they are taking on Especially those investing in fossil fuels. Or join with indigenous communities like with Winona Laduke and others working to Stop Line 3 in Minnesota.
Top-down is the war economy. We must come from the place of listening, developing relationships of trust and understanding, which takes time. We need to take the time, to learn and build trust until they too have a strong ground to stand on that is rooted in peace.
As an activist, I have always understood that activism is affecting the person closest to you. Why? Because we change our minds with information from someone we trust.
Then we must take on the media that is oil on the fire of war, spreading it wildly.
But we must also cultivate authentic culture and take ourselves off the diet of the Hollywood kitsch. Note that it was Bernie in his jacket and adorable mittens, became the meme from the inaugural; because it was authentic in stark relief to the manufactured show. People are hungry for authentic experience - that authentic experience is happening in our communities, that is the power to expose the lies. We will find inspiration being together and inspiring each other, telling our stories. This means finding more time to engage with the cultures that are rich and vibrant and old and wise.
The ruling class, the 1%, the elite however you name it, the ones who think they benefit from the war economy in their short-sighted greed. They are also driving forces and power behind the war hegemony of our minds. They benefit from all of it. Fascism arises from it. The molotov cocktail made of the ruling class and the war economy is patterned to drive the system to facism. Without regulations and accountability to hold back the addiction to war and greed, it will destroy all of us, them included. But as with all addicts they are blind to their own destruction.
We take them on with the divest from the war machine campaign and Blackrock the poster child of the war economy. The years of taking on Larry Fink made him too toxic to fulfil his dream of being in the Biden Administration; but his former staff have infiltrated the Biden team.
The revolving door of corporate power to political power is not even a revolving door it is a full-on passageway with no dividers. They are one. And nothing drives right-wing extremism quite like government corruption and secrecy. So don’t let Congress push more laws to control terrorism, they need to change their behaviors instead.
And then the members of Congress. As they are affected by both the ruling class of which they are members and the media. We have to encircle those in power and squeeze them back. Send them retreating as we expose their dirty laundry and lies and the violence at the core of their actions and votes.
Trust in all the 3 areas, the media, corporation and congress are at an all-time low, so why do they have power and how do we take that power? Here is our opportunity. We have the greatest capacity right now. We have them on their heels and we have to remember that. Biden didn’t win the election, he was the lesser of two evils and it was him or a dystopian future. That bar is too low, it is up to us to raise it. People want the bar raised, they don’t want to be in the gutter behind barbed wire. We have to believe in each other. Create trust and connections across movements, divest ourselves from the systems of oppression and be engaged, and in action. Every day we must be building the blocks of trust and truth we can stand on.
The breathtaking Amanda Gorman said in her The Hill We Climb at the inauguration. We lay down our arms so we can reach our arms to one another. Let us embrace her words and free our Arms for hugging those in our communities at the greatest effect of the war economy. Let us remember racism is a result of the war economy, not just poverty and the militarism in our streets. Arms should never be funded as they are intended to kill the child of another mother. And let us not allow the story out of the Biden Administration that we must ‘prepare’ for war with Russia and China because preparing for war itself is the path to war. We instead need to model reaching our arms out to each other in cooperation and peace, the problems of our world need peace, need peace economy culture and habits and we cannot be sidetracked with their lies.
In our China Is Not Our Enemy campaign we can see the state department is building cases to use human rights as the reason to go to war with China. We must teach that human rights are the first casualty of war; ask the people of Yemen. If we care about human rights, the first being the right to food and shelter, we must know that war will always violate human rights and can never be the answer to the need for human rights.
We are changing the narrative with our China is Not our Enemy campaign because we can’t ever let ourselves be dragged into the war story. We must bring the conversation to our narratives of life, and the rights to life. We have to make sure the media, the corporations, the foundations funding movements and those in power understand when they drive hate towards China they are driving xenophobia in the US and acts of violence and hate towards Asians, all Asians since few Americans can actually tell the difference. So to drive hate towards China with lies is already a crime against Americans. In NYC 8 young men attacked a Japanese concert pianist saying ‘take that china man’ hurting him so badly he is no longer able to play the piano. Worst of all this racism arises in our elementary and middle schools. Driving hate is not ok. Instead, we should be working with China to learn how to take people out of poverty, work together to de-escalate climate chaos and to invest in peace instead of war. China has less than 300 nuclear warheads instead of the almost 7,000 of Russia and the 6,000 of the United States.
How do we find the cracks in their armor and expose the violence so even they can’t stomach it?
Unfortunately, George Floyd had to give his life to expose another of those cracks. But how to sustain these moments to achieve change? We have an opportunity with the success we celebrate this weekend, nuclear weapons being illegal. But war itself is technically illegal and it rages on with our tax dollars.
How we build the movement starts locally, starts relationally starts where the war economy is robbing from our lives right here and right now, it starts with those who are at the effects. We must be there. If we are going to build the power needed to pull back what desires to be a race forward to more war, weapons and violence that then comes home to destroy our communities.
We need that commitment to love, we wake up with each day and find how we serve those most in need locally and those our war economy is violating across the world. They are connected and drawing those connections is up to us. Not letting our view of the world stop at our borders but know that we are all connected - and if we were demanding what was needed for those who are the essential workers that create our healthy communities and sustain life then those across the world would be less affected by our weapons and war. That to let the war economy get away with murder at home lets it be even more brutal abroad.
The truth can be demoralizing. So learning how to tell the truth in stories that expose the truths more effectively.
If Black Lives Matter then why are we using our money to destroy black lives across the world? How do we truly value the lives across the world that sustain life here in the US? Asking those questions too often has you not invited to the party, the truth is too demoralizing and as Gloria Steinem says the Truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.
We must continue to hold the warmongers accountable. Continue to expose who they are, what they have said and when they say they have changed shine the light on their actions and make them prove that to be true. They too need to build our trust and for now we can trust none of them. Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus allows members that didn’t vote for the lousy 10% reduction of the pentagon. By us having a commitment and not allowing excuses we build their trust in us to take them on as they are inside the belly of the beast and every day in a culture that believes with all its heart and all its pocketbook that there is only the war economy. That there is only US hegemony that makes the world safe and that war can actually deliver peace to the people of the US.
Who defines the terms of engagement. We must take back the narrative. We must show how the war economy is killing all of us and the future of the planet. We must show that it is racist and brings violence home to our communities but we need to do that within the movements who best understand those truths.
Let’s hold Biden to his own inaugural words, set our narrative from them.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can stop the shouting, and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. Let us not be used by their stories and lies, do not let those you love and those in your community be used by their stories. Instead let us raise the bar together and show there is something beyond the war economy; Life, Peace and community. “If only we have the courage to be it.”
The war economy co-opts whatever rises to challenge it and envelopes it and makes it part of the war economy. So with the Biden Administration we are looking at women and people of color leading the war efforts. Let's not forget they used (with his agreement) Colin Powell to rubber-stamp the Iraq War. And now 4 of the 5 weapons manufacturers are run by women. (Not to mention the warmongers Michelle Flournoy and Avril Haynes on the Biden foreign policy team) just recently we noticed that Raytheon was in bed with the Girl Scouts which we were able to get the girl scouts to publicly distance themselves from but we are under no illusions that the poaching on young girls for the war machine is not still happening - and we have launched a new campaign at CODEPINK to stop the weapons manufacturers who are now poaching on young black girls in STEM. we have moved from teaching in high schools to protect our youth from the poaching of the military poverty draft, now we have to protect our youth from the war machine. These are always bad jobs, they kill people! They are not essential jobs. There are so many better ways for young women in STEM as Jonathan said earlier we need investment in research and in those jobs that sustain life.
So we must start with our roots and the roots of our communities cultivate the peace economy. We can practice that each day by finding ways to be allies to those who are at the greatest effects of the war economy locally. And if you can’t find it turn to the Poor Peoples Campaign and they can support you in connecting locally.
The war economy is our culture. It is how we behave and what we believe and what we take in each day. To build the movement/power to end the war economy and war we need to affect that culture. Not only not agree with it but change the narrative. Just as we celebrate the change in the narrative around nuclear weapons today.
Changing the narrative is paramount.
Cindy Sheehan is a great example of expanding a movement and taking back the narrative and standing on the strong ground of what creates conditions conducive for life.,
going up to Bush’s ranch knocking on the door and saying “what nobel cause did my son die for?” and receiving no answer. She flipped the country against the war revealing the emperor had no clothes. All those lies laid bare. She was the peace mom and the country united behind her. The 2006 elections were about peace. The 2007 Congress voted for more war and demoralized the movement. The $$ of war again, more powerful than the desires of the people.
We must have learned over the years we can’t compromise, we leave it to the backroom dealings of those in Congress for the dirty business of buying and selling lives for votes, for us we must stand with our commitment to peace and with the people globally who depend on us being at the least brakes on the empire. But we the people cannot compromise. War is never the answer. Nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity. The money spent on war kills people and planet and fails to nourish life.
At CODEPINK we strive to always be disarming. As we are working towards peace not more division. We work to change the narrative to one that connects. A way I have found to disarming a moment is to pull out my phone and ask those I am in community with to join me in calling Congress, I tell them why I am calling and how it affects them, phones come out I share (202) 224-3121 with them and their messages are passionate, long, full of force that include their intimate experiences. some of those are now joining with Marcy Winograd, Medea Benjamin and Haneih Josat Barnes for CODEPINK Congress Tuesday night briefings and calling Congress. You too can join and bring your communities. Or make your own Tuesday calling community.
Engagement, engagement engagement
The only recognizable feature of hope is action.
Every day what was your engagement? Use your creativity and bring others with you.
We must stand up to the lies, hate, violence and acceptance of war in the media. At CODEPINK we found we were spending so much of our energy constantly engaged in the halls of Congress and in the meantime, the culture had moved even further into acceptance and celebration of war. Peace sidelined and made out to be something of a unicorn instead of a necessity for life on this planet.