Peace Advocates Must Meet People Where They Are


By David Swanson

I set out to meet people where they are. But where are they?

I found some of them at the nearby organic vegan fairtrade coffeeshop. I asked them what they thought of Ukraine. We exchanged ideas and outraged lamentations for a few cappuccini, and came up with a short statement that we thought we could all agree with and that was more peaceful than they would have proposed on their own. I offer it here as a model for peace groups to consider:

“The maximum possible quantity and quality of weapons must be sent to Ukraine immediately, but scaled back by up to 6% if those resources are directed instead toward the assassination of Vladimir Putin. There is no need that he be violently killed, and lethal injection would be acceptable (as long as it’s not the fastest kind).”

Not bad, right — I mean considering? You can’t imagine the intricate compromises involved. We need to be strategic here after all. I was so pleased, and hyped up on caffeine, that I headed out to the nearest gun range, where I found people I could chat with outside during breaks. These people were able in record time to produce an incredibly good set of proposals, better than the coffeeshop folks:

“We demand an immediate ceasefire, a negotiated peace, and no more risking nuclear apocalypse for wokism.”

I was super pleased, but asked if the last bit could be modified. After a lengthy and rather painful discussion, the only variation everyone could agree on was this:

“We demand an immediate ceasefire, a negotiated peace, and no more risking nuclear apocalypse when we need to get back to dealing with the terrorist countries.”

The coffee was wearing off, and I asked if we could go back inside so they could just shoot me.

These people were more agreeable than I really needed, so I gathered my courage and headed forth to where people are. I had thought I would avoid the choir and try all variety of heathen, but when I ran into a couple of people I knew who were headed to an anti-imperial teach-in I decided that, after all, these were people too, right?

After a long meeting and with no input necessary from me, they announced a public decree for everyone to approve by a voice vote. This was too easy.

“The U.S. government must stop fueling this war,” they began.

But the rest was: “which Russia was forced into against its will. To send your support or volunteer to enlist in the Russian military, you can contact . . . ”

I was doing something wrong.

I decided to go back to webinars, back to making a lengthy presentation with a long lead-in clarifying that while I don’t find your side of a war to be saints I do agree with you about the evil deeds of the side you hate, and while I might maintain that more than one person has done something less than perfect on the same planet that doesn’t mean that all imperfect acts are “equal” to each other, etc., etc., and eventually providing some history of how we got here, quoting some acceptable people, outlining the evidence on the effectiveness of nonviolence, and considering the possible actions and outcomes before us now.

Given the number of people moved by these webinars, I’ve determined that we should have a massive movement for peace by early in the year 2183 — but only if all webinar participants have longer-than-human lifespans and fully commit to not seeing a television ever again.


David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host.