Colombe Update April 2017

Over the past two years, Colombe Foundation has been in the process of launching a new strategy centered on intersectional peace movement building. This approach came from a deep dive analysis of the weaknesses and strengths of the peace movement – one that reached a high water mark in the 60s and again in the 80s with victories related to ending US military entanglements in Asia and freezing the creation of nuclear weapons. Yet the peace movement has experienced a steady decline in political and cultural influence since 9/11, due to a variety of factors which include the fact that patriotism has come to be defined as synonymous with support for military and militarism, corporations make massive profits off our military and our foreign policy, servicemen and women are isolated from rest of population, and the general electorate is captured in a Pavlovian fear-response to Islamic terrorism and conditioned to support militaristic responses.
Colombe Foundation hired a consultant who has strong ties to millennial and New American Majority movements to do interviews with leaders across a variety of issues – from racial justice, climate justice, and immigration to corporate accountability – to determine how peace as an issue, and the movement as a sector, are perceived and whether any bridging of communities was desired and achievable. What we found was that millennial and New American Majority movements have a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of peace issues grounded in Martin Luther King Jr’s famous trifecta – that militarism, poverty and materialism were inextricably tied together. They also know that the contemporary peace movement is not strong enough to challenge American empire, the war machine, and the fear-based response of the population to the post-9/11 terrorism boogeyman. We also found the current peace movement to be white and aging, with its leadership undergoing a generational transition.
Through the years, although the peace movement has been successful in creating a strong general antiwar sentiment among the public, militarism in our own country is on the rise and Americans across the country face a police force that is increasingly militarized, unaccountable, and committed to suppressing democratic protest, assembly and engagement. Even as of the time of this writing, the current Administration is using bombings of foreign countries to distract the public as it consolidates power in the executive branch and props up its own authoritarian regime.
To rise to face this challenge requires a new movement that works intersectionally – across several different New American Majority movements to weave militarism into the core analysis of activists addressing the concerns of their constituencies, in a way that exposes it as a common theme that underpins the very issues each movement seeks to address. Thus the peace movement will need to reform its very constituency, strategy and purpose and go beyond anti-war or anti-weapons foci to address the frustration that so many Americans feel toward corporate influence and its overwhelming power to shape our democracy and governance. It will have to go beyond oppositional stances to challenge the brutality of America’s empire building which serves corporate interests and perpetuates white supremacy. It will have to build trust and relationships among those groups hardest hit by American militarism, including veterans, refugee communities, Muslim Americans and immigrants.
To quote Daniel May, the consultant Colombe Foundation hired to help with its program development, from his article in The Nation, “Such an effort will require that some of the younger leaders coming up in contemporary justice movements make the struggle against militarism central to their program, not just their analysis. Those organizers who make this their life’s labor will find ways of exposing the cost and waste of imperialism, organizing against those who profit from it, and offering a clear choice between global military expansion and a democracy that serves its citizens. Perhaps their work will be framed by the profit made from killing, or by the costs of our globalized military, or by the disastrous consequences of foreign entanglements. Perhaps it will target particular institutions that benefit from the corrosive connections between racism, militarism, and oil; perhaps it will expose how a culture of violence abroad is manifested in a culture of violence at home. Perhaps it will be led by veterans, or by refugees, or by women, who bear the brunt of so much American violence. All of these directions, and more, will have to be attempted, tested, grown—and supported by funders, many of whom, after Obama’s election, turned away from a focus on war and militarism.”
For its part, the Colombe Foundation is dedicating some of its funding to support such organizing and other funders have expressed interest in joining in. The first projects the foundation is looking to support include a series of trainings on militarism for movement leaders across the country and a coordinated campaign to address police militarization.