2008

20 August 2008: As Colorado takes the stage, so too will activists

As Colorado takes the stage–so too will activists

With the Democratic National Convention and the recent blue-ing of the state, Colorado has been thrust into the national limelight. For Democrats, there is much to celebrate and much to anticipate, even the expectation of carrying Colorado for Barack Obama.

But all is not necessarily kumbaya in the land of the Dems. In addition to the main show at the Pepsi Center, a variant number of side shows will be taking place on the streets and in the parks, demonstrating that not everyone is happy with the party.

The group that initially got the most coverage is Recreate 68, dedicated to, according to its website, “all the grassroots people who are tired of being sold out by the Democratic Party.”

At the other end of the geriatric spectrum is Tent State University, a member of the Alliance for Real Democracy, that urges students and young-at-heart types to “come express your hope and anger with the Democratic Party’s continuation of the war; come show your solidarity by dancing in the streets, making music rather than war, and connecting with others united to resist war and imperialism.”

Another prominent ARD group is CODEPINK, “a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities.”

The Alliance for Real Democracy (http://realdemocracy2008.org) itself is a coalition of about 19 activists groups including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

ARD maintains it is “a nonviolent, transparent coalition of progressive and radical groups.” Its member groups “believe it is imperative to bring critical, progressive issues to the forefront of the national conscience during the DNC” because “elected Democrats in large part have refused to support ‘just and progressive policies.’”

In addition, environmental and gay- and immigrant-rights groups will be expressing their concerns and hopes for the upcoming campaign.

Sounds pretty noisy and potentially tumultuous in the name of peace and justice, but bedlam has been a vital element of a vibrant democracy. Thomas Jefferson, a founder of the Democratic Party, wrote to James Madison after Shays Rebellion in 1787 that “A little rebellion now and then is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”

In the war to stop the war and to bring about peace and justice, there will be a quiet space dedicated to “demonstrating peace and countering the forces of darkness.” Meditate 08 (www.meditate08.org) is focusing on creating a place for quiet contemplation at Fishback Landing Park along the South Platte River behind the Denver Aquarium and REI Superstore August 23 – 28.

Forty nationally recognized meditation and yoga teachers from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, African, and Native American traditions have been invited to guide participants in their practice.

Don Morreale, an organizer of Meditate 08, says, “Our effort is to create this place of peace, wisdom and a clear scene to bring about clarity of vision.”

Morreale says that the purpose of meditation in Buddhism is to focus on motivation and attitude, not on a desired outcome.

“Attachment to the outcome is a cause of suffering. So it’s important to relinquish one’s hold on the outcome.”

To let go of attachment, focusing on a desired outcome, is contradictory to what we in the western world have learned. After all, that is what prayer is often about as well as setting personal goals and being an active citizen.

Relinquishing control of the outcome would be a real act of courage—a leap of faith for many—on the parts of the players in the melodrama, both in the Pepsi Center and on the streets.

Morreale points out that if the intent of the participant is based on negativity—violence, hate, and anger—the result will be suffering. On the other hand, if the intention is positive—peace, love, and harmony—the result will be beneficial.

Meditate 08 brings to mind Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King’s approach to altering the status quo through peaceful civil disobedience. Their actions were based on Thoreau’s philosophy as he writes in “Resistance to Civil Government”: “if it [injustice] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

In his/her own way, each activist will be doing just that. Some will be doing so through positive action and others by letting go. Here’s hoping they all succeed.

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