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Remarks at the 2008 Peace Fair (April 26, 2008)

by Carolyn Eisenberg, Co-Founder of Brooklyn for Peace
Contact info: | 347–743–8401.

On behalf of Brooklyn for Peace I want to welcome all of you to this wonderful gathering and schedule of events. We want to especially thank the students from Long Island University, who have helped to make this a very creative, energizing, fun and empowering occasion.

While extending thanks, let me also thank the members of the Peace Fair Committee — especially Nora Gordon (Program Coordinator) and Charlotte Phillips (the Chair of Brooklyn for Peace) who have been working relentlessly to make this happen.

And now a word about Brooklyn… Despite the claims of real estate brokers, we know that this is not a "perfect borough." That within a minute all of us can think up ten major problems that we have not started to solve. But I think most of us who live here also recognize two things -that at a time when people in other place are killing each other over their differences, that we value our diversity and the friendly co-existence of so many different communities. And we also recognize that Brooklyn is a kind of peace zone, in which the vast majority of people living here are opposed to the use of military power as the remedy for "terrorism."

The people in our borough have never embraced the Bush agenda — not the war in Iraq, not the horror of Guantanamo, not the torture of prisoners, not the jailing of immigrants in the Metropolitan Detention center, not the $500 billion defense budgets that keep passing year after year, not the neglect of our veterans, and not the ludicrous indifference to the real needs of people for better schools, quality medical care, affordable housing and ironically enough homeland security.

I'm old enough to remember the Brooklyn Dodgers and the sentence that rang out at the end of every baseball season: "Just wait until next year." And we hear the echoes of this in our politics today, when people ask us to wait for the election and to understand that nothing good can happen until 2009, when we have a new government. As of this afternoon we don't know who the victors will be in that election.

But one thing we do know, because experience has taught this. We can't wait until next year to do our organizing! We can't wait until next year to build resistance and insist on change. We can't wait until next year, because eight months from now: another 800-1000 Americans will die in Iraq, because four times that number will come home with devastating wounds to their bodies and untold damage to their minds and hearts.. We can't wait until next year, because instead of four million Iraqi refugees there will be five million, because more US helicopters will be firing into urban neighborhoods and claiming dead children as collateral damage. We can't wait until next year to stop the strangling of Gaza or to prevent an American attack on Iran, ordered by the Bush-Cheney White House and perhaps approved by our own Senator Clinton.

Obviously the upcoming election is important and as individuals all of us will do everything we can to elect advocates for peace and social justice. But voting is not a substitute for real organizing and for the mobilization of people in our schools and in our neighborhoods. Voting is not a substitute for building coalitions that can last and which insist that public officials act on behalf of their constituents.

So here is a simple thing to do and then a bigger one. This week, probably even today … Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are deciding whether they should give President Bush another $175 billion in war-funding. If they give him this money, they will have forfeited all leverage over this Administration until 2009. So the simple thing is to make some phone calls-call Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha and let them know this is not OK with you, that they were given a majority to bring our troops home, not to keep them in Iraq. And then call your own member of Congress and say the same thing. As for Senator Clinton, she tells us every day how she can't wait "to stand up for the American people." Remind her, she can start standing up right now by saying "no" to the White House request and stopping a war she has too long supported.

The bigger commitment is to keep working together, in whatever way feels comfortable — with family, friends, fellow students, neighbors, co-workers to make Brooklyn's voice for peace and social justice so loud and strong that it cannot be ignored. Our organization Brooklyn for Peace is dedicated to achieving this mission. With so much hope, energy and good feeling in this room, we can almost imagine success.

Carolyn Eisenberg, Ph.D., Co-Chair of Brooklyn For Peace, is a professor of U.S. foreign policy at Hofstra University and a member of the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy as well as Historians Against the War. She is the author of Drawing the Line: the American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944–49 (Cambridge University Press, 1996).