BY NANCY MERRITT
CA State Coordinator/ Northern CA
Peacebuilding should be such a part of the fabric of our nation that it is no longer a borderline activity, sometimes recognized as critical, sometimes marginalized, sometimes funded, sometimes tossed into the defunded bin. To build upon our accomplishments with the CA Democratic Party (CDP) over the years, the CA Peace Alliance/ Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding went to the CDP convention to take peacebuilding from the fringes to the mainstream.
Our prior accomplishments with the CDP include endorsement by the Party of 1) Department of Peacebuilding legislation (currently HR 1111/ DoP) and 2) Youth Prison Reduction Through Opportunity Mentoring Intervention Support and Education (currently HR 2197/ YPA or Youth PROMISE Act). The CDP also included our peacebuilding language in its 2012 and 2014 Platforms and adopted our “Peacebuilding” resolution.
The CA Peace Alliance Democratic Party endorsement team (CA Dem Endorsement team) and volunteers from throughout the state “mainstreamed peacebuilding” at the CDP convention from May 15 – 17, 2015 in Anaheim, CA, just blocks from Disneyland — “the happiest place on earth.” Approximately 2,500 attended, including 2,123 registered CDP delegates; CDP officials; local, state and federal elected officials and candidates; exhibitors and observers; and members of the press.
We came away with new and renewed alliances, 1,075 newly-signed letters urging members of Congress to cosponsor DoP legislation – which is sponsored by CA Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) — and YPA legislation, and we moved forward our UN Peacebuilding Resolution (“Resolution Urging The United Nations & All Member States To Support Infrastructures For Peacebuilding Within and Externally Among Nations”). During the convention, the Resolutions committee approved our UN Peacebuilding resolution and the Party as a whole will likely endorse it in August 2015. In addition to seeking support of CDP delegates for peacebuilding measures, we lobbied Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) to cosponsor the DoP legislation.
1. KEYNOTE MESSAGES AND ATTENDEES
At the convention, a parade of elected and Party officials spoke about many issues that concern this country. The CA Dem Endorsement team was there to ensure the peacebuilding was part of the conversation.
Keynote Speaker Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), acknowledging that retired Congressman Barney Frank (MA) was also speaking at the convention, thanked the CA Democrats for convening the MA Democratic convention in CA. Reflecting common themes and concerns, she said, “We don’t win what we don’t fight for.” Senator Warren asked people if they were willing to fight for a world where the law applies to everyone, including banks; a world that believes in science and fighting to protect the climate; fighting for decent minimum wages; fighting for every kid’s right to an education without being crushed by student loans; fighting for immigration reform, fighting for equal pay for equal work. “If we fight for our values, we will win. Are you ready to fight?” Senator Warren’s inspiring speech left some of us noting the need to change our national psyche and rhetoric from “fight, fight, fight for” to “collaborate, work for, empower …” A challenge of peacebuilding is to transform “fighting” from the connotation of violence and conflict to collaborating and working to find nonviolent solutions. (Often easier said than done.)
Retired Rep. Barney Frank (MA) said the refrain is for America to lead the world, but if the U.S. leads the world, where are we leading to? He wants the U.S. to advocate for human rights, but said sending the American military into every situation is an enormous mistake. The U.S. military does not need to intervene any time, any place. “The military can stop bad things from happening, but it can’t make good things happen. It can’t bring democracy. It can’t bring respect for civil society or reconciliation of Sunni, Shiite and Kurds.” Rep. Frank advocated reducing the U.S. military budget and reducing the military to the level where we can defend ourselves and our legitimate interests, but not sending the military to resolve political situations it cannot handle.
Elected officials. All CA statewide officers are Democrats, and almost brought their messages to the convention, including: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Treasurer John Chiang, Controller Betty Yee, and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. (There were no sightings of Governor Jerry Brown.) At least the following members of Congress attended: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-34), Rep. Janice Hahn (CA-44), Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43). Senate pro Tem Kevin De Leon(SD-24), Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (AD-78, State Senator Isadore Hall (SD35), State Senator Mike McGuire (SD2), State Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer (AD-59) Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, and other state and local elected and candidates were there.
Exhibitors. The CA Dem Endorsement team joined a host of others who tabled at the convention, including an Armenian American group, the Brownie Mary Democratic Club (Barnie Frank spent some quality time at the group’s Saturday night party), the Carpenter’s Union, Planned Parenthood, Progressive Democrats of America, SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, Sierra Club, and candidate/ member of Congress booths.
2. CA PEACE ALLIANCE MESSAGING & ACTIONS
Whether working at our booth, testifying at the Resolutions committee, messaging at the caucus meeting, or talking with convention attendees, we worked to place peacebuilding front and center. We tied the need for a US DoP to the Peace Alliance’s (TPA’s) “Be the Movement” and its five pillars of peacebuilding: 1) cultivating personal peace; 2) teaching peace in schools; 3) empowering community peacebuilding; 4) humanizing the justice system; and 5) fostering international peace.
Peacebuilding is a range of measures to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace & development. Peacebuilding is built upon:
- Research into the root causes of violence
- Promotion and promulgation of effective policies and programs to ameliorate those root causes of violence
- Providing all citizens, organizations and governmental bodies with opportunities to learn about and practice the essential tools of nonviolent conflict resolution and peacebuilding. (DoP Act of 2015, Finding #10)
CA Peace Alliance volunteers lobbied and networked to mainstream peacebuilding by encouraging attendees to:
- Sign letters to members of Congress, and lobby their own members of Congress, asking them to cosponsor the DoP and YPA legislation
- Vote for our UN Peacebuilding resolution;
- Sign a petition about a similar resolution (“Global Resolution to the UN General Assembly and UN Nations for Establishment of Infrastructures to Support a Culture of Peace”) at www.peacenow.com
- Ask organizations they belong to endorse DoP legislation.
- Sign up for Peace Alliance emails, learn more about the “Be the Movement” initiative and the various “pillars of peacebuilding” and get involved.
- Display DoP bumper sticker son their car or elsewhere
- Talk with others about peacebuilding.
A. Our CDP Resolution Supporting Global Infrastructures of Peace
At every statewide CDP meeting, there is a cascade of causes and concerns. During the Anaheim convention, that was reflected in 70 plus resolutions that were submitted to the Resolutions committee.
Submitted resolutions. During the first Resolutions committee meeting on 05/15/15, the committee placed on its consent calendar most to the submitted resolutions, including the CA Peace Alliance “Resolution Urging the United Nations and All Member States to Support Infrastructures for Peacebuilding Within and Externally Among Nations,” which resolved:
that [the] California Democratic Party urges the United Nations and all Member States to promote and support the establishment of peacebuilding infrastructures in order to facilitate the gathering and creation of best practices and policies, improving communication, cooperation and collaboration to save future generations from the atrocities of violent conflict, poverty and human-induced environmental disasters, advanced by passage of the global resolution.
Other submitted resolutions included “prevention of sexual harassment at secondary school level,” “fully accept Sikhs in the U.S. military,” “a life-preserving approach to wetlands restoration,” “restoring California’s promise of free tuition for all of its residents,” “safe storage for San Onofre nuclear waste,” “support death with dignity,” and “desalination as part of statewide water policy.”
“Immediate” resolutions. During its second session on 5/16/15, the Resolutions committee selected only its top ten or so most “immediate” resolutions to send to the Party as a whole for adoption at that convention. The other approximately 60 resolutions will be voted on by the Party at the CDP Executive Board meeting in August in Burlingame, CA.
To determine the most “immediate” resolutions, the Resolutions committee allowed one representative of each resolution one minute to make the case for their resolution. Speaking on behalf of the CA Dem Endorsement team, Jerilyn Stapleton (Los Angeles TPA) said peacebuilding and creating infrastructures and departments/ ministries of peacebuilding within and among all member states of the United Nations are crucial and urgent:
- 1.6 million people die each year due to violence
- The total cost of violence to the US was conservatively calculated to be over $460 billion while the lost productivity from violence amounted to $318 billion
- The cost of Global Violence Containment is $9.46 Trillion.
“Just two days ago, on May 13, 2015, the House Appropriations Subcommittee proposed to defund juvenile justice programs! This means: 1) no federal dollars for prevention programs; 2) no resources for evidence-based interventions for at-risk youth; and 3) no core protections for kids in the system,” Jerilyn said. The cost of violence in lives and money is enormous. Conflict prevention and violence prevention are up to 60 times more cost effective than intervening after violence erupts. That is why peacebuilding is urgent and should be prioritized.
While the Resolutions committee did not send our UN Peacebuilding resolution to the floor during this convention, it was approved, will go before the Party in August and will very likely be adopted at that time.
Adopted resolutions. At the convention, the CDP adopted a resolution reaffirming CDP opposition to “fast tracking” of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and also adopted resolutions relating to: “make California work better for working women by advancing workplace equality and modernizing Worker’s Compensation laws,” “repeal CA’s personal beliefs exemption to mandatory vaccinations,” support “divestment from fossil fuel companies,” “I can’t breathe resolution: medical aid and transparency in police encounters and investigations,” and “CA Senior Bill of Rights.” See www.cadem.org for more details.
B. MOC Letters
At the CA Peace Alliance booth, and moving throughout the convention, we collected 1,075 newly-signed letters, including 1,056 urging members of Congress to co-sponsor DoP legislation and 19 urging members of Congress to cosponsor YPA legislation. Further, Jo Ann Gaines (Los Angeles area TPA), added 222 letters from prior events in Southern CA, including 100 related to DoP and 122 related to YPA co-sponsorship.
DoP letters. At the convention, the DoP letters were addressed to six members of Congress from CA, asking them to cosponsor DoP legislation: Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7), Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3) and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43). In the batch of letters from Jo Ann Gaines were DoP letters to many other members of Congress.
YPA letters. The YPA letters were written to Senator Boxer and to various CA members of Congress, including Rep. Bass, (CA-37), Rep. Becerra (CA-34), Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24), Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29), Rep. Janice Hahn ((CA-44), Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-4), Rep. Mimi Rogers (CA-45), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Rep. Lucile Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Rep. Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), Rep. Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43).
C. PEACENOW Petition
Part of the inspiration for our “UN Peacebuilding Resolution” at the CDP convention was the online petition to the United Nations General Assembly being circulated worldwide calling for passage of a resolution urging “Establishment of Infrastructures to Support a Culture of Peace” in all nations. At our booth, we promoted this.
The online petition is evolved from ideas that have been brewing over many years and related actions, including: 1) work at the United Nations, its 1998 UN Resolution for a Culture of Peace and the 1999 UNESCO Resolution for a Decade of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World; 2) collaborations at various summits over the years of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures of Peace (GAMIP); and 3) a connection between John Viscount (www.peacenow.com) and some in the GAMIP / National Peace Academy / Peace Alliance community such as Mike Abkin, Anne Creter, Maggi Koren and Dot Maver. That connection with John began when his film Admissions received its world premiere showing at the 2011 GAMIP summit in Cape Town, South Africa. To sign the petition and watch Admissions, go to www.PeaceNow.com.
We were honored when John Viscount, who with Scotty Bruer founded www.peacenow.com, came to the CDP convention and happy to learn the online petition has now been signed by individuals from 128 of the 196 UN member nations. According to its website, PeaceNow is motivated by: 1) one third of the world is at war; 2) there are 300,000 child soldiers across the globe; 3) $1.7 trillion a year is spent on war; and 4) since 2004, two million children have been killed by war.
We attended some CDP caucus meetings, including the African-American caucus, the Environmental caucus, the Progressive caucus, the Rural caucus, the Veteran’s caucus and the Women’s caucus.
At the African-American caucus, we held up our signs “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me: Thank You Barbara Lee for Introducing Department of Peacebuilding Legislation,” and we talked with caucus members after the meeting. For the Veteran’s caucus, Lily Marie (NE CA TPA) stood outside with our banners and thanked the Veterans for supporting DoP legislation. Many were thrilled to be acknowledged. Inside the caucus meeting, Doug Merritt (San Francisco area TPA) distributed TPA literature. At many of the caucus sessions, peacebuilding-related issues were discussed, including at the Veteran’s caucus, where they discussed state legislation relating to cases of sexual assault of service members of the CA Military Department (the National Guard, the State Military Reserve, and the National Militia) being prosecuted by civilian authorities (AB 1422) and compensation for military victims of sexual assault (AB 2545).
E. Peace Sale
To raise awareness, we held a “peace sale” of bumper stickers, cards, books and buttons and resurrected the quote: “It will be a great day when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
III. MESSAGING FROM ELECTED OFFICIALS & ATTENDEES
Throughout the convention, much of the discussion touched upon root causes of violence – including the need for jobs, healthcare and education – and also directly addressed many forms of violence that exist in our nation, from domestic violence to school bullying to police misconduct to violence against women in the U.S. military to war. These are also recurring themes in the peacebuilding community, where we work to raise awareness and to connect the dots between root causes of violence and violence prevention. Inclusion and respect for all are important elements of peacebuilding.
A sample of messaging from convention speakers and attendees includes:
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Immigrants make America more American …” During her speech, delegates held up signs: “”When women succeed, America succeeds” and “House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi #WomenSucceed.”
- Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom — who eleven years ago, as Mayor of San Francisco gave LGBT couples the right to marry in that city — noted that we are one Supreme Court judge from marriage equality in all states. He also said that 50% of kids in CA are poor or near poor and that we need to be as bold as the problems are big. “The biggest risk is not that we aim too high and miss it, it is that we aim too low and reach it,” he said, quoting Michael Angelo.
- Controller Betty Yee said CA is the 7th largest economy in the world and also home of the highest rate of poverty – the chasm must be closed. The historic poor and today’s poor, she said, are worthy of our embrace. “We can and we must create opportunity for the untold numbers who need to be lifted up and given hope. We must not become complacent. Complacency leads to silence. Silence leads to indifference. Indifference and silence ultimately relegate us to the dump heap of history.” Our shared values of community and respect for others have shown time and time again that any obstacle can be overcome, Betty Yee said.
- Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15), who was appointed Chair of the House Democratic Future Forum by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, was at the convention to “invite Millennial leaders from across California to join a nationwide movement on issues affecting our generation. From college affordability and student loan debt, to home ownership and entrepreneurship … “
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) addressed the African American caucus and publicized the Black Women’s forum in Los Angeles (May 30, 2015). In a flyer about that event, Education leader Andre Perry said, “They say, ‘a mother’s work is never done.’ Depressingly, the work referenced in this motto can be that of social justice. As new leadership emerges in highflying cases of injustice, mothers of slain unarmed black men and boys have become primary teachers of the prevention of racial bias and discrimination.”
- Members of the Progressive Democrats of America were there campaigning for Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) for president, “A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little.”
- Others advocated establishing a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention fund through license plate sales with that message. See www.nomoreplate.org. “12.7 million people are physically abused, raped or stalked by their partners in one year. That’s approximately the population of New York City and Los Angeles combined. That’s 24 people every minute.”
4. THANKS TO CA TPA DEM ENDORSEMENT TEAM, VOLUNTEERS
AND MANY CDP ALLIES
Thanks to the CA TPA Democratic Party DoP Endorsement team, which has met approximately every other week for five years, and has now work for peacebuilding with the CA Democratic Party at all statewide meetings since 2011. The statewide team includes folks from the far North to the far South of the state: Brian Gibbs (San Diego), Maggi Koren (Sonoma County), Lily Marie (Nevada County), Nancy Merritt (San Francisco Bay Area), Lorrie Norby (Marin County), Josh Roebuck (Oakland) and Jerilyn Stapleton (LA).
Thanks to volunteers. Many others helped us with our ‘mainstream peacebuilding’ efforts before and during the convention. We met some new friends, renewed acquaintances and channeled the good energy of those who were not able to come to Anaheim. Volunteers came from all over the state — from NE CA/ Nevada County to the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles/ Venice Beach/ Anaheim and SW CA/ San Diego. Thank you Fandra Chang, Jo Ann Gaines, Brian Gibbs, Ted Gwartney, Amanda Jennings, Maggi Koren, Lily Marie, Doug Merritt, Nancy Merritt, Lorrie Norby, Susan Pelican, Josh Roebuck, Freda Sideroff, Jerilyn Stapleton, John Viscount, and Gary Wintz for helping with resolution writing, convention preparation, networking and/ or volunteering at the convention.
Thanks to the Resolutions committee and Suzanne Ruecker and to endorsers of our “UN Peacebuilding Resolution” including: Democratic Central Committees (Lake County, Madera County, Nevada County, Sonoma County and Dale Axelrod), Democratic Clubs [Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club, Stonewall Club (Los Angeles)] and Democratic State Central Committee members [Steve Bott (AD50), Ann Donien (AD50), Edward Everett (AD50), Leah Herzberg (AD45), Sue Himmerlrich (AD26), Nyabing Kuti (AD54), Dorothy Reik (AD50), Susie Shannon (AD50), David Sonneborn (AD68) and Michele Sutter (AD62)].
The CA Peace Alliance/ Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding was there. We connected with hundreds of convention attendees. Many signed our letters. Some took our Congressional letters back to their clubs and friends. Some signed up to receive Peace Alliance announcements. Some will display our bumper stickers and wear our buttons. Some will talk with their own members of Congress and communities about violence prevention and reduction. Some will be part of our future efforts with the CDP.
Upon noticing our group, CDP Chair John Burton, who one official joked had a lifetime honorary pass to Disneyland because he was the inspiration for the character “Grumpy,” asked the CA Peace Alliance if we were still there. Holding her two banners for Department of Peacebuilding and “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Lily Marie assured Chair Burton we were most definitely still there. As reflected in a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is posted on the CDP website, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
All of that is about mainstreaming peacebuilding.
CA State Coordinator/ Northern CA
On Behalf of the CA Peace Alliance Democratic Endorsement Team