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Giving peace more than a chance (LAUGH ALERT)
Southtown Star ^ | September 12, 2010 | Kathleen Rooney

Posted on 09/12/2010 7:55:27 AM PDT by Chi-townChief

On the last Tuesday of last month, in a primetime address from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama a nnounced the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.

On the first Friday of this month in an address that was only minimally covered, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly spoke at St. Ireneaus Catholic Church in Park Forest about her experiences protesting - and getting arrested - with 13 others at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada last April.

Seven-and-a-half years and 4,427 American casualties after his predecessor's May 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech, the current president declared that the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom will permit the American military to "apply the resources necessary to go on offense" in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, the base where Kelly got arrested is one of the sites from which the Air Force deploys drones infamous for killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The coincidence of these two events, the president's address and that of Kathy Kelly, got me thinking about how much you hear in the mainstream media about agencies responsible for making war but how little you hear about groups that argue for other solutions.

Kelly's speech, for example, was sponsored by no less than three social justice groups: Nonviolent Peacemaking Partners, Pax Christi Seed Planters and Generations for Peace. To my chagrin, before I learned of Kelly's talk, I'd never heard of any of them.

Fortunately, Orland Park resident Bernie Kopera, a member of the two latter groups, was willing to fill me in on these organizations, the causes they're working toward and the reasons it seems like true grass-roots peace and justice movements in American struggle in relative anonymity.

Kopera describes himself as having held two real jobs in his life, the first working in Chicago Catholic schools, finishing as a sixth-grade teacher at St. Rita School, which he left in 1977 to work for the Treasury Department. After retiring on Independence Day 2005, he turned his attention toward political organizations, campaigns and grass-roots activism. He attributes his own participation in the peace and justice movement in large part to his Catholic upbringing.

"I remember reading in high school about the social justice encyclicals that were written back in the early '60s, and those stuck with me," Kopera said. "I think we need a return to the social justice issues that those spoke about: living wages for people, just war and care for the environment. The pope back in 2003 said that a war against Iraq would be immoral and not a just war, and yet we didn't hear about that very much."

Kopera emphasized, though, that the movement is not a religious one. "We're a widely ranging group," he said. "Some of us are Catholic, some of us are atheist, but we all have a concern for peace and justice. We share those concerns and values."

All too often, it seems that when the American peace movement is considered at all, it is cast in a less than serious light - as something quixotic and easily mocked, a quaint throwback to the idealistic flower power counterculture of the 1960s. But Kopera pointed out that the concerns of the movement are far more practical, current and financial than you might think.

"We are people who come from different perspectives," he said. "There's often an economic motivation, and that's certainly a valid motivation, too, with the disparate incomes in this country. We're now going to have auto workers' starting wage at $14 an hour. This is a terrible thing. We have an issue out in Will County with warehouse workers. Warehouse Workers for Justice based in Joliet did a study and--found that most workers were hired as temps and make poverty-level wages. There's a huge movement to organize these workers."

Kopera admitted the peace movement faces skepticism and resistance, and that "part of the problem is a lot of people are apathetic, and when a decision for war or how to handle Katrina or how to handle the BP oil spill - when those crises come up, they don't know what they can do, so they just go along with the leadership. But I think being a citizen is a full-time job. And it should be as important to people as their job."

He also pointed out that the federal government spends 57 cents of every dollar on the military, and that many in the movement "feel like peace and money are connected." Sure, he agrees, "we need the military for defense, in the world that exists today, but we have over 100 bases all over the world," and he adds that "the government spends a lot of the taxpayers' money. If you're concerned how your money is spent, it behooves you to be an active citizen. This country will never have affordable higher education again and quality universal health care unless changes are made."

Worth noting is how close to the mainstream these views actually sound. One day after the president's speech announcing the withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq, Illinois Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias called for a reining in of nonessential military spending in favor of allocating more resources toward education. "We can still have the best security in the world without wasting money and breaking our budgets," said Giannoulias, sounding not unlike Pax Christi Seed Planters and Generations for Peace.

Why then is the peace movement frequently ignored at best, and dismissed at worst, when meanwhile the Tea Party gets nonstop coverage? For one, the peace movement is truly grass roots - a movement consisting of personal involvement and dedication from the ground up - whereas the Tea Party is increasingly being revealed as AstroTurf - funded by billionaire businessmen like brothers Charles and David Koch, whose anti-environment, anti-government, pro-business, multibillion-dollar agitation has caused them to be likened to the Standard Oil of our times.

For another, Kopera said, "Some of us get pretty heated, but typically, we don't make the rash statements that might come from other points of view, so we're not quotable. Our message is more nuanced, and it might take some more thought than simply another black-and-white story."

Kopera also is sensitive to the criticisms often leveraged against peace groups that their opposition to war is unpatriotic. "The Tea Party people are criticizing the government all the time, but they're not being called unpatriotic," he said. "We have to be critical of our government, not in a negative sense, but in an analytic sense."

For citizens of the south suburbs and beyond, this seems an encouraging reminder that if you look closely, you can see more than one way to disagree with the government. You don't have to be fearful and angry, th ough you can if you want. But you can also be hopeful and optimistic.

"Get involved at the local level even - with your village, with your city. It's the way to start," Kopera said. Maybe it's time for you to give it a chance?


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; iraq; liberals; peaceniks
"For one, the peace movement is truly grass roots ..."

... and if you don't believe here, just ask George Soros. Ms. Rooney really needs to stick with nude modeling.

1 posted on 09/12/2010 7:55:29 AM PDT by Chi-townChief
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To: Chi-townChief
three social justice groups: I'd never heard of any of them.

Did she think the KGB prints a catalog of its front groups?

2 posted on 09/12/2010 7:58:00 AM PDT by BenLurkin (This post is not a statement of fact. It is merely a personal opinion -- or humor -- or both.)
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To: Chi-townChief
Are these people really that stupid?

3 posted on 09/12/2010 8:03:16 AM PDT by darkwing104 (Lets get dangerous)
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To: Chi-townChief

The leftist idea of “social justice” is free money for leftists. They are nothing but selfish pigs. They don’t care about the people who die in war, they just want the money going in their own pockets instead.

Actual issues like maintaining the basic infrastructure of a nation or protecting innocent people from torment and death are of no concern to these disgusting hippy vermin.

4 posted on 09/12/2010 8:05:01 AM PDT by Soothesayer (“None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license...")
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To: darkwing104
Are these people really that stupid?


But they know that there are plenty of people out there who are very stupid and ignorant, and that's who people like Kathleen Rooney are reaching out to.

The more intelligent and informed can't be fooled by such nonsense and what Ms Rooney is preaching. But, she and others like her will continue trying.

As long as people remain ignorant and uncaring and stupid, there will be an audience for the Kathleens and Obamas and Reids and Pelosis of the world.
5 posted on 09/12/2010 8:24:47 AM PDT by adorno
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To: Chi-townChief

Dam* commies!

6 posted on 09/12/2010 9:54:45 AM PDT by Karliner (Now this is not the end. .... But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning, Churchill 1942)
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To: Chi-townChief

I’ll bet comments like hers were frequent in Chamberlain’s Britain before September 1939.

7 posted on 09/12/2010 2:23:06 PM PDT by Don Corleone ("Oil the the cannolis. Take it to the Mattress.")
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To: Chi-townChief
He also pointed out that the federal government spends 57 cents of every dollar on the military...

That is a lie. Figures HERE. Try 18.74%.

8 posted on 09/12/2010 2:32:25 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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