Marketing Peace and War

I’m happy to run with the six peaceniks that stood trial in DC Superior Court on July 12th. Three are with Peace of the Action (POTA) and include Cindy Sheehan, national director of the organization, as well as Jon Gold and Jim Veeder. They were acquitted. Elaine Brower of Military Families Speak Out and Matthis Chiroux of Iraq Veterans Against the War were convicted, as was Leflora Cunningham-Walsh. I applaud these citizens of the world and their devotion to peace and activism. Sheehan and Gold have articles about the trial on POTA’s web address: peaceoftheaction.org/.

On July 13th, some of us gathered at the White House. We took a bullhorn to the president’s presidio and told Barack Obama what we think of his George Bushiness foreign policy. This was gratifying, a celebratory wrap for POTA’s July action, especially since the defendants, prior to the trial, had been under a “stay away order” from this area of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, this:

The young woman who sat across from me as I rode DC’s Metro was an advertisement for peace. A large, flashy gold bracelet with interlocking peace medallions encircled her right wrist. Everywhere I turned, I saw peace symbols. On purses, backpacks, shirts, sandals, and earlobes.

While participating in POTA events, I rode the rails, walked, and ranted and railed. And I observed. Even infant wear is decorated with peace signs. Soon, Pampers will bear the insignia—if they don’t already.

The commodification of peace is an extension of our war culture. If there were no war, the merchandizing of peace images would be unnecessary. But in our consumption-obsessed society, we juggle all the trends we can afford and much of what we can’t.

Parents buy for their children action figures with hands molded to support weaponry. Then, moving to the next store at the “maul,” they are lured to the register to have credit cards swiped to purchase toddler t-shirts with an image of a dove, a peace emblem, and, often, a written message. To wear with Star Wars undies. Both peace and war have become fashion statements. Malia Obama has fallen victim, wearing shirts adorned with peace symbols, despite her father’s stock in tirade—the war rhetoric—amid his war lust, robotic war, and nationalistic clichés.

Eight US troops were killed in Afghanistan over a 24-hour period during the writing of this article. July could be even more violent than June for NATO-led soldiers. One hundred died last month. I know, personally, that families who have opened the door to hear words that change lives forever are feeling a fall-to-the-floor agony and for months will say, “This can’t be real.”

In the center of criminal power that is Washington, DC, POTA brought together six to twelve people, most days, for antiwar actions.

Meanwhile, more than 1000 Afghans just amassed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, shouting “Death to America.” Is anyone surprised? Our invasion, occupation, and barbarism have devastated a population and an environment, killing who-knows-how-many civilians, yet the Afghan insurgency grows. The country is a slaughterhouse.

Here at home, specialty wholesalers and retailers are making a killing, selling peace images, manufactured, probably, in China.

The masters/merchants of war are making a killing, as well.

And the people who are apathetic to any understanding that war is impacting our planet, the economy, our humanity, and lives both at home and in the countries we occupy buy STUFF because it’s shiny, comes in pretty colors, and is all the rage. Those who have no engagement in what is being committed in their names exploit peace.

Again, I say, if there were no war, peace symbols would be unnecessary. And so would a peace movement.

MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  Email her at:  missybeat@aol.com









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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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