Readers' Forum

For A Department of Peace

Editors' note: We received many letters thanking us for the article by Carol Estes on active nonviolence and its mention of the proposed Department of Peace (YES!, Spring 2006).
Letters came from people active inpromoting such a department all around the country, from California to Minnesota to Alabama.
The following two letters are a sampling:

Thank you for your wonderful article on active nonviolence. I am one of the state coordinators with the Department of Peace campaign in Minnesota. We have had some great success with our grassroots campaign. Last September, 11 of
us from Minnesota met with U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, and the three children attending the meeting were the voices that resonated with our great senator. They asked him to introduce the bill into the Senate and on September 22 he did.

- Greg Skog (Eagan, Minnesota)

I have been working on this campaign [for a Department of Peace] for three years and find it has been life changing. Creating a Peace Academy to train cadets in thecutting-edge use of nonviolence strategy would save countless lives. The war in Iraq clearly illustrates that the American military is capable of winning any war decisively, but wholly inept at establishing peace.That is because the tools for waging war and for establishing peace are fundamentally different.

If people knew of the true power of nonviolence, the range of disciplines it encompasses, how often it has been utilized successfully, and the degree to which it has been profoundly more effective than violence, this information would radically change our world.

- Carol Hillson via e-mail

The Real Face of Activist Art

As a long-time subscriber to YES!, I was pleased when Dee Axelrod asked to interview me for an article she was writing on changes in the arts since 1995. Unfortunately the article that emerged from our lengthy conversation, though seemingly about making things visible, made my contribution invisible. How do we network, create momentum, and model respectful attribution in the movement we are trying to create if the resources we need to access are invisible?
A few corrections:
1. “Reclamation art” and community-based art have been strategies used by activist artists for several decades, both within and outside the art world.
2. The eco-art group that gathered at the 1998 College Art Association consisted of 10 people (not 60, as the article states) and has grown into the international eco-art listserv of over 70 participants,
3. The Institute for Social Ecology did have a program in art for social change (which I co-created/facilitated with Bob Spivey from 1991–2002) but ISE no longer exists. Despite this loss, educational programs that foster socially engaged art and community-based art practice are beginning to emerge all over the country.
A future article might explore the myriad of strategies available to socially engaged artists and what obstacles we face.

- Beverly Naidus (University of Washington, Tacoma resident of Vashon Island)

Beware Success

YES! is my absolute favorite magazine. But beware success. The powers that be can destroy any one thing they want to: attack it from right and left; corrupt it from the inside; co-opt it. But if this world is saved, it will be saved by tens of millions of little things.

- Pete Seeger (Beacon, New York)

Friends of Trees

If there is any merit to the concept of peak oil—;that we are about to see a massive increase in the cost of a dwindling supply of oil—;then we should start planning now for how to grow food locally. One way would be to start a massive planting of fruit trees in people's yards and parking strips. I propose this be paid for via a 1 percent tax on all development. And all homes with parking strips should be required to have trees planted on them.

- Albert Kaufman (Portland, Oregon)

Zapatistas Launch Campaign

Tens of thousands of masked indigenous Zapatistas and their supporters filled the center of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, this New Year's Day. Despite extreme poverty and the lack of basic resources, a multitude of men, women, and children traveled hundreds of miles to inaugurate their Otra Campaña, the Other Campaign, and to hear the voices of the Zapatista leaders, men and women who serve these people. Yes, Marcos was there, in his new role as “delegado Zero,” assigned to travel the country as part of a delegation to listen to the millions of people whose concerns and voices are not heard in the national election campaigns. Thus the name, La Otra Campaña. There's a quiet determination here—;no illusions about a quick solution to the worsening problems of neglect and poverty that impact daily most of the people here. Tonight I stood in the midst of tens of thousands of the true leaders of this world who are living proof that the power attained by the powerless through unity is elemental and unstoppable.

- Patricia Worth (San Cristóbal de las Casas,Chiapas, Mexico)

Choosing Humane Food

Kudos for addressing the “Food Revolution” (Spring 2006). Indeed, consumers are increasingly seeking out alternatives to conventional retailers and products, and this trend can most clearly be seen by the growing market for animal welfare-friendly products. Choosing not to support industrialized animal agribusiness is as simple as learning more about the realities of factory farming and opting for those products that do not result in customary abuses. A good place to start? www.Egg

- Miyun Park Vice President, Farm Animal Welfare, The Humane Society

Raising Voices in Song

I am the artistic director for One Voice Mixed Chorus, an 80-voice gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community chorus in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Our mission is “building community and creating social change by raising our voices in song.” Inspired by the YES! mission, I'm currently designing a concert that will weave stories and music from spiritual traditions across the globe. The divide is huge between Christian communities and GLBT people. Singers in my chorus are hesitant to sing in churches because of the hurt and rejection so many have experienced at the hand of Christianity. But I take my choir into churches several times each year, and each time the experience is tremendously powerful for both chorus members and the congregation. There are positive stories out there, and I am determined to find them. A group of pastors in Texas recently told their congregations they will no longer perform straight marriages in their congregations until their GLBT members have the legal right to marry. This is an incredible story of standing in solidarity. If readers know of other stories of spiritual communities taking radical, positive stands with GLBT people, I would be glad to hear of them to incorporate into our concert. Send your stories to [email protected]

- Jane Ramseyer Miller (St. Paul, Minnesota)

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