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Guest Editorial: Reflections on the Chicago Peace Rally, Saturday October, 27, 2007

“Have we chosen the present, or has it been handed to us? ~Peter Block When we work with fourth grade classrooms at the Peace Learning Center here in Riverwest we have a concept that we teach them that asks: How many people does it take to make or end peace? We’ll usually go around the room and take some answers from the kids that range from 1 to 1000. Then one of us will leave the room for a moment and come back in yelling, usually at me, about not cleaning up snack or something. The staff member will leave again and come back in greeting everyone nicely, flashing the peace sign and saying that everyone’s beautiful. We’ll ask the kids what each scenario felt like and they eventually understand that the answer to our question is one. It takes one to make or end peace. At the regional Peace Rally and March in Chicago on Oct. 27 I felt my oneness, my desire to protest against the Iraq war and injustice in general, my inner choice to work for peace in our community here and with the larger world issues, become swept up in the solidarity of the march. The solidarity of the chants have been ringing in me for the past few years to the point now that I understand them and can stand and add my voice to the thousands that gathered as one family, as a group of ones that came together and found each other. Chicago was my first overtly political act of protest towards a government that does not listen to its people, and it felt good to get my feet wet. The day was perfect and the faces and energy of all that marched were beautiful and strong. I had never felt so strong before or so protected, even with the hundreds of police that lined the march with stern faces, making fun of chants that we used, holding their batons at the ready for violence and the sinister black trucks from spy movies with rotating cameras. My favorite chant from the day was “This is what democracy looks like.” It is what democracy looks like. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen democracy in action. It’s the first time I’ve seen our individualized, super-sized society stand for freedom, for solidarity and for justice. I can see now why the establishment that rules us would be so afraid when we stand together against policies that profit from war and oppression. I can see now why our local democratic processes feel out of our reach. I can see now why there is the scarcity of local businesses and local production of goods and services, why our money leaves our communities to some corporate entity. It’s a vision of society that keeps us looking outside of ourselves for what we need, to keep looking to other people’s answers. Chicago taught me that it is we, the people of each neighborhood, who know what we want for our families, who know what kind of work would fulfill us, who want to feel empowered to solve our own problems unique to us. We are not statistics, and our lives cannot be measured by them. We are not part of some demographic whose life experiences can easily be put into a category. We cannot underestimate the value of one person making a peaceful transformation within themselves by choosing peace over conflict and violence and connecting with others who are doing the same. I encourage us all in Milwaukee to find the organizations in this community that are working for peace, building the local economy, providing services for our youth that may be missing from their schools or homes. I encourage us all to have the courage to create relationships with each other and stand together in our neighborhoods to feel the strength that I felt in Chicago. As the children at Peace Learning Center come to understand that they are responsible for choosing how they act in conflict situations, we must realize that it is up to each of us to become ready to act now to make their future full of positive opportunities and nurturing communities. Paul Moriaity is a teacher at the Peace Learning Center.