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Celebrating Peace On Independence Day

Neighbors for Peace entered a "Peace Train" in the annual Evanston 4th of July parade, with a positive response from a hyper-patriotic audience. (article 2)
While many Americans celebrated the 4th with family and friends, drinking and blowing things up, about 50 activists chose this day to work for peace. A local group called Neighbors for Peace sponsored an entry in the annual Evanston parade under the banner "Train for Peace." As an unnecessary but welcome affirmation of our efforts, Chief Judge Barbara Linn bestowed the "Chief Judge's Award" upon our peace train.

This year's parade theme was "America's heroes/Evanston's heroes," and our entry consisted of 5 rolling billboards drawing attention to our peace heroes including Mohandas Gandhi (the only non-American, included as a sign that peace is a global issue, and for his stalwart advocacy for peace), Dr. Martin Luther King and Helen Keller among others. As for local heroes, we celebrated Jane Addams, Homer Jack and Charlotte Koch. More information on these amazing pioneers can be found at our website.

Our train contained portraits of our heroes, along with famous quotes on the values we wanted to promote: peace and justice through non-violence and cooperation. Dr. King sums this up with his statement: "Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people." About 50 peace advocates marched alongside the train, many carrying peace doves.

Other groups joined the peace train, including Chicago Peace Response, the Chicago chapters of both Refuse & Resist and the Chicago Committee to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Peace & Jobs Petitioners, and the Campaign for Collateral Compassion, with its message "No more innocent victims, anywhere", and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

The hard work leading up to the parade, as well as the exhausting work of pushing the train on a hot and humid day couldn't detract from the amazing experience of advocating peace and non-violence on the day of the year when dissent and free thought should be most celebrated. We didn’t know what to expect from such a red, white and blue crowd, where jingoism runs wild. But the public response to our peace train was quite positive. Sure, everybody reflexively claps for a fire truck or marching band, but the applause received from about a quarter of the crowd for an entry that required extensive reading and reflection felt very gratifying.

For some, Independence Day means celebrating America in an absolute fashion; i.e., love thy country, right or wrong, despite our imperialism and global exploitation. We insist on the opposite; that to truly honor the memory of July 4th, 1776 is to speak one's mind, and advocate freedom of expression and even dissent when one's conscience is so aroused. Sure, the Declaration of Independence was a woefully inadequate document if you happened to be a woman or an African slave or an indigenous American, but remembering the spirit of disobedience in that document would be a better legacy than using the day to maintain blind patriotic allegiance to our American empire.


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