I’ve heard it more times than I can count.
What happened to the peace movement? Why aren’t people out in the streets? Nobody cares about wars anymore. The immense and effective public backlash to potential military action in Syria should put those lamentations about a lackluster peace movement to rest. Today’s peace movement responds to threats of war in the targeted, sophisticated manner that our political moment calls for.
Growing up in a small town in Maine with not a political rally in sight, I was in awe of footage of anti-Vietnam war protests. I hoped I would experience the excitement of coming together for a cause. What that coming together looks like has changed a lot in the past fifty years—but don’t be fooled. Just because it doesn’t manifest in the same way doesn’t mean the peace movement isn’t making its voice heard.
Last month, I felt that excitement rushing around Capitol Hill the week of the scheduled vote on using force in Syria. In dozens of offices, I heard stories about phones ringing off the hook. The backlash was palpable. Knowing that activists around the country had banded together to beat back an ill-advised military attack made me feel like a part of something powerful.
Building on the groundwork laid by all those who worked before us for peace and social justice, we want to provide the tools to make today’s peace movement a well-oiled machine. Our inside and outside game are tightly coordinated. Our phone calls, emails, meetings, vigils, and media campaigns target the right people at the right time.
To that end, Peace Action and Peace Action West are launching Know the Score, a real-time tracker for Congress’s votes on peace. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can see every vote your representatives have taken on everything from wasting billions of dollars on missile defense to throwing up roadblocks to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. You can step back and see the whole landscape, with interactive maps of the country for every single vote. Here’s why I think this is important:
Knowledge is power. It’s a full-time job keeping up with the ins and outs of Congress. Few people have time to wade through more than 500 votes and parse the legislative language to find what’s important to them. But if we’re going to hold Congress accountable, we need to be watchdogs. How many of you know that the House (including 21 Democrats) voted to exempt the nuclear weapons budget from the government shutdown, while people who rely on government services suffered?
Action is best when it’s targeted and timely. The way issues of war and peace can turn on a dime, we need to know the congressional landscape and be ready to respond. A comprehensive and easy-to-navigate database of peace votes (including an honor roll of people who vote with us 90% of the time or more) helps us understand who our allies are and where we need to apply pressure.
Peace is hanging in the balance. This tool isn’t just about looking back. The next few months are critical for world peace. The US could be on the verge of a diplomatic deal with Iran, but there are lots of ways that Congress could be a spoiler in the process. The Syrian crisis rages on, while many politicians want to throw more weapons into the bloody civil war and others push for humanitarian aid. And although the government shutdown is over, we’re still in the midst of a budget crisis in which the Pentagon wastes billions of dollars while programs that make our communities stronger face the budget axe.
In those three days on the Hill in September, I witnessed a rapid, historic shift. Millions of engaged people brought us back from the brink of war. Today’s smart, sophisticated movement can do it again, with the right tools for making peace.
This piece first appeared in LAProgressive.com