End the violence. End the violence. End the violence now.
Join us, join us, yelled the man with the microphone. My heart was with them, but I couldn't get up and walk. I was working. I was barefoot. I would have to put away my work, close up the house, set the alarm. I had a million excuses, and even before I could scratch them all on the back of my skull, the crowd was turning the corner to head down Twelfth Street towards Mandela Parkway and away.
What do we want? PEACE. When do we want it? NOW.
NOW. . .Now. . . Now.
What do we want? PEACE. When do we want it? NOW. . . Now.
The mayor's husband, a doctor, a founder of an over-60 health clinic, reached across my fence and handed me a magnet for my refrigerator. Create a Safer Cleaner Oakland. Report Problems to the Public Works Agency. I thanked him, and then stood still, listened to the gentleness of feet moving together, the pitch of voices rising. Call and Response. Call out and the world calls back.
I did not want to think about how many years ago, how many decades past, I yelled those same words, passionately, convinced that by working together, we could change the world, bring peace to our cities, peace to our land, peace to our world. Almost 50 years. I stood aside and watched them go -- the years, the people, the voices -- wondering why I cling, somewhat stupidly, to a hope for peace, but I do. I do.
After they were gone, my neighbor to my right went back to working on his car. My neighbor across the street picked up his hammer again. The man who had stepped out from the Western Service Workers Association put away his camera and stepped back in. I went back to work, and somewhere behind some closed door someone went back to cleaning his gun.
What do we want? PEACE.
When do we want it? NOW. Stop the Violence, stop it now. NOW. Now. now. . . please NOW.
But how? Federal funds are funneled off to wars. Schools are collapsing under the weight of senseless and useless bureaucracies. Our society is gasping and grasping and gagging. There's no money for schools, no money for health care, no money for housing, no money except for those who already have more than they could ever spend in a lifetime. Education, housing, healthcare have become unaffordable for most of us. Real health care is no longer available except to those who can afford to pay for private insurance and the hefty deductibles. The rest of us make do with aspirin and tisanes. The social safety net is so shot through with holes that if any who has the misfortune to fall into it instantly falls through its rotted netting and hurdles downward into the abyss.
We want peace, but who's going to sign the Peace Treaty and give up war when war is the money machine, the rusted gas guzzling brutal nasty engine that keeping the economy pumping. . . All money goes to war; all money comes from war. Capitalism is war on the people. Once that war was organized with well-defined rules of engagement; now, it is guerrilla war, fought down in the ghettos and out in the streets, and we, the people, are being unwittingly transformed into soldiers, destined to die in those trenches unless we cast off the uniforms, lay down the guns, and give up on war. NOW.
Now . . . NOW . . . Now . . .
If we want peace, we have to stop consuming and start nurturing. We are not the brave soldiers of capitalism, marching off to consume and consume some more. We are mothers and fathers, artists and musicians, farmers and mechanics, dreamers and inventors, scientists and doctors, workers, children, grandchildren, lovers, humans with thin skins and giant hearts.
To find peace, refuse war. All war. All violence. Live simply. Consume less. Do no harm.