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How do we protest ourselves, a candid look at the anti-war movement and what lies ahead

How do we protest ourselves, a candid look at the anti-war movement and what lies ahead
How do we protest ourselves? 
A candid look at the anti-war movement and what lies ahead
by Kevin Annett

“Yeah, we brought the war home alright, but it was already here, waiting for us.” – Vietnam veteran Darryl Adams, 2019

“The nation-wide survey shows that a shocking twenty five percent of teenage girls are actively planning measures to end their lives.” – CNN News, February 16, 2023

“To be anti-war is like being anti-glacial.” – Kurt Vonnegut

My old friend Larry called me up last week with an excitement in his voice I hadn’t heard in years. He was on his way to the February 18 “Rage against the War Machine” rally in Washington, and he wanted me to come along.

“It’ll be like in the eighties, only better!” Larry effused. “Everybody’s so pissed off now!”

I smiled into the phone as I recalled a much younger Larry, his arm linked in mine as a bunch of us blockaded the entrance of a chemical weapons factory in Calgary in 1983.

Plato said that it is only the dead who have seen the end of war. I quoted that to Larry last week, and he got angry at me and called me a pessimist. I prefer realist.

Violence may be as American as apple pie, but it’s also the goose that has laid the golden egg of its prosperity. America’s one billion dollar a day arms industry is what has sustained its economy, even though it’s also bankrupting it. But let’s not pick only on poor Uncle Sam. Adolf Hitler’s dubious gift to posterity, the permanent war society, has metastasized across our world and established the age of the neo-fascist Corporatocracy. And all of us are caught in its systemic violence, like bugs in a deadly web.

In a broad sense, the new geo-political conflict between America and China is not a battle between two superpowers as much as a funeral service for a divided, debt-plagued United States. As China’s star rises and America tears itself apart domestically, we should recall that it’s at such transitional moments that declining powers tend to strike out desperately to preserve their dwindling hegemony. Washington’s ridiculous proxy war in the Ukraine is such a telltale indicator.

Normally, war hysteria generates opposition and big peace protests. What is odd these days in America is the lethargy of the response. Less than a thousand people turned out to the recent Washington anti-war rally on which Larry placed his hopes. The times now are obviously different from the cheerful heyday of the Sixties, when over 25,000 protesters massed in Washington soon after America sent its first ground troops into Vietnam. 

But the diminutive rally on February 18 is a bellwether indicator of a deeper malaise than mere apathy. People know instinctively that listening to the same old speeches for a few hours does nothing to end war. But then, stopping war was not the aim of the February 18 rally.

If people were serious about putting a spoke in the wheel of the war machine, they wouldn’t make speeches; they would go on strike, help soldiers to desert, refuse to pay taxes to the government, and block arms shipments and army recruiting offices with their bodies. That’s what’s worked in the past. But of course, such action means putting your life on the line, which privileged people are not prone to do.

Even more basically, Americans stayed away from the recent rally because they are essentially pragmatic people. They know that war is nothing out of the ordinary, and by that I mean not just the shooting kind. When the third greatest cause of death in our world is suicide and a quarter of young American women are actively planning how to kill themselves, explosions in Kiev and Kharkov are the least of our worries.

“Stopping war is like light trying to vanquish its own shadow,” I said to Larry during our post-mortem reflection. “It’s better to face the thing in the mirror.”

Amidst the carnage of the American civil war, Walt Whitman put it this way:

“O I see flashing that this America is only you and me,                                                            

its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,                                                           

its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me,                                                       

this war, so bloody and long, is you and me.                                                                    

I dare not shirk any part of myself,                                                                             

Not any part of America good or bad.”

Facing who we are and what we’ve profited from is not something criminally complicit folks like us do unless we have to, and even then, we never do. I’ve learned that the hard way in Canada over the many years that I’ve fought alongside indigenous survivors of humanity’s oldest war. People like Frank Ermineskin.

Frank is a homeless Cree man who as a child endured daily starvation and torture in the Catholic death camp called Lejac Indian residential school, where he buried a lot of other children. Soon after the COVID restrictions were imposed in 2020, Frank said to me,

“Now you whites know what it’s like to be on the reservation. It’s payback for what you did to us. And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Frank and those like him are part of the mirror in which we can see who we are and what has led us to the present madness. That is no doubt why my people ignore him and the truth he embodies. Rather than face and embrace our own shadow, it’s so much more comfortable to project it onto the latest scapegoat. Protesting sure beats changing.

“Maybe there’s nothing we can do anymore,” Larry said sadly as we ruminated. “Maybe this is the end, like it's a judgement on us.”

But after a moment, my friend brightened up and told me of the next big protest that’s being planned.

“Do not be deceived ... you shall reap what you have sown.” - Galatians 6:7

Learn more this Sunday February 26 at 3 pm pacific, 6 pm eastern at 

And meanwhile, don't do this:
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