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Election reflection: Keep building peaceful communities

By Christopher Overfelt

Election season is upon us, and the Democratic Party appears poised to take not only the presidency but also the Senate. This is consistent with the pattern of the past few decades: Each party succeeds the other in power with very little changing in the policies that most affect ordinary Americans.

Foreign-policy-wise, neither party has been able to reign in the bloated military budget that siphons so much taxpayer money into the pockets of the wealthy. Nor have they been able to stop the flow of weapons that issue from America and to repressive regimes around the globe. The UN has declared Yemen to be the single worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world. Since 2015, tens of thousands of children there have died of starvation, and thousands more are dying as we speak. These terrible deaths are not due to natural catastrophe, but are instead due to a war prosecuted by Saudi Arabia, with the logistical aid and weapons supplied by the United States.

Domestically, neither party has been able to stem the tide of substandard education and unaffordable health care and housing. Over the past 50 years in America, the cost of living has skyrocketed while wage growth has not kept pace. The unmitigated rise of corporate power and the decline of government power have contributed to these conditions, and both parties have been complicit in the revolving door from government work to private lobbying.

An argument can be made that in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, we are living in an era where public policy goes to the highest bidder. If the Democrats do succeed in passing meaningful legislation around climate change, health care, education, and gun control, it is possible that a heavily pro-corporate Supreme Court will nullify these changes.

This is where groups like PeaceWorks, Vets for Peace, and the Poor People’s Campaign can be effective in building peaceful communities, even amid civil strife and political violence. While it is tempting to think that political structures are the only way to make change, it is possible for small groups of people to have positive effects.

No matter who takes power next year, the work towards peace will continue. History has provided us with examples of how politically weaker groups of people, through collective action, can strive and thrive in the face of overwhelming power. While it is vital that we vote and participate in our political system, it is also vital that we organize in collective groups. As a group, PeaceWorks can help build a society in which respect and grace are given even in times of political turmoil.

Peace takes practice. If we are going to advocate for peace in our communities and in other places, we must first practice it ourselves. Grace and love are fundamental aspects of peace. When we fail, we must be able to allow ourselves grace and we must extend that grace to others when they fail. This goes for politicians, people whom we disagree with, and even the political systems which govern us.

—Christopher Overfelt, a member of the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors, is active in Veterans for Peace and the Poor People’s Campaign.

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