Empowering civic activism toward a culture of peace.

I just finished reading an interesting (IMHO) article from Paul Loeb (author of "The Soul of the Citizen") on Huffington Post about the importance of personal contact when trying to elicit support for an important issue. (Read the full article here.) Mr. Loeb points out how easy it has become for us to sign an online petition and feel as though we have accomplished some great democratic feat. Or how a re-posting on Facebook highlighting a recent injustice from a major retailer makes us feel as though we have enlisted our friends in the boycott. How many of us on DoPeace have fallen into this false sense of accomplishment? (Confession time: This is my normal MO. For example, I'll post this blog on DoPeace and Facebook today, but I don't plan to call anyone to discuss it.)

Loeb offers some data from campaigns that shows the relative ineffectiveness of such approaches and how phone calling and door knocking can really make the difference that we seek. How can we better use the personal touch to further engage our friends and neighbors in the cause of peace?

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Comment by Wendy Greene on August 8, 2010 at 11:17pm
I think the biggest thing is just having the courage to discuss the day's issues with our friends--to get into conversations that are more substantive than what we saw on TV last night. But the challenge I find is that I'm not always skilled enough to talk about substantive issues in a way that doesn't create defensiveness or someone jumping on their soapbox. I'd like to be better able to just share ideas without getting caught in who's right or who's wrong.
Comment by Tricia Idrobo on August 8, 2010 at 3:35pm
I think online petitions and letters are great for letting elected officials know how we want them to vote, or what we want them to prioritize. But yes, for appealing to our fellow citizens and influencing the direction of our country by sharing good ideas, face to face conversations can't be beat.
Comment by Patricia Simon on August 8, 2010 at 12:19pm
I feel in strong agreement, Peggy. In the Vietnam era, in the struggle for amnesty for war resisters, and in the Nuclear Freeze movement, it was the endless personal contacts, through local and regional meetings, that we created a groundswell of support which actually brought change (although we are starting all over on even trying to get the new Start Treaty ratified). In current advocacy work, for a Department of Peace and for the Youth PROMISE Act, we do best at local gatherings. However, in terms of outreach, I am so aware of my timidity in community-building (peacebuilding!) in on-line social networking, that I will take a crash course (in one lesson!) at a local high school, in October. Meanwhile, I will continue to stumble along, on-line, for peace.
Comment by Ted Nunn on August 8, 2010 at 11:20am
Thanks, Peggy, for sharing your story. I do expect that other organizers are running into the same thing.
Comment by Peggy Hanna on August 8, 2010 at 9:08am
A few of us volunteers from the Obama campaign decided to stay together and form a county-wide Peace Alliance group in our rural midwestern community. My experience during the Vietnam War was totally different than what we're experiencing now, and I think it is in part to people thinking they've done enough by signing the on-line petitions, etc. We went door to door and telephoned, etc. for Obama and our conservative Republican county did way better than expected because of our work. During Vietnam, we had a vibrant group of people who attended meetings regularly and were willing to get out there and do something. We followed the lead of the American Friends Service Committee and Another Mother for Peace. Some say people are too busy these days but we were busy back then. Most of us were working mothers. I had five small children and worked part time. But now we're lucky if we have four or five people attend our meetings and are finding it difficult to carry off the many great ideas we have to create a presence locally. I imagine there are others out there who'd become more involved if their conscience wasn't salved by computer petitions.

Check out my book, Patriotism, Peace and Vietnam: A Memoir to see what a small town peace group can do if people actually meet face to face.

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