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The War At Home: Protest By Doing

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What next for the anti-war movement? We couldn't stop the invasion, so now the job is to learn from it. Here's what Mara Evans of Durham is doing. She's canceled her local newspaper. She's canceling cable TV and switching to C-Span on the radio. "I will use the saved money to subscribe to news sources that present critical, thoughtful analysis of both sides of foreign and domestic policy issues," Evans wrote us. "I do not want to support the propaganda tool that the American media has become."

Also, Evans is walking to work one day a week (one hour round-trip) to save gas. She's calling the White House and Sens. Edwards and Dole weekly on the issues. And she's investigating socially responsible investment strategies in place of her current mutual fund holdings. "This is a pretty pedestrian list, but it is a start," she writes. "Anybody out there have any other suggestions?"

Not pedestrian at all (except the walking). And--per great minds thinking alike--very much in the vein of where the state's anti-war leadership thinks the movement ought to go. They want it to go local and be diverse.

Some 60 activists gathered in Charlotte over the weekend, and one idea was to reprise the Feb. 15 convergence on the state Capitol in Raleigh, which drew a crowd of at least 7,000. Instead, however, they decided to promote a "coordinated statewide day" of community-based actions on Saturday, April 19.

What does that mean? It means whatever you need it to mean, says Ed Whitfield, co-chair of the Greensboro Peace Coalition. "Every community has a war at home" because of the sagging economy, cutbacks in safety-net programs, intrusive policing and the cost of our global militarism," he says.

Local organizers may opt for teach-ins, or forums, or rallies, or vigils, Whitfield says. "I'm a pluralist. I think there are a lot of right ways to do things." He pointed to one Greensboro mother who tried to get her daughter's elementary school to sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" instead of "God Bless America" at a recent assembly. "It was xenophobic, like God should bless America but not the people we're bombing," he said. "It shows the need to examine how the schools are teaching about this war."

A common denominator for local efforts, the Charlotte group agreed, should be to draw new people into the ranks of the actively engaged, especially minorities and the disadvantaged. The war's hitting them the hardest, both because they're the ones fighting it and because, back home, their communities are losing jobs while it continues.

There's been a lot of talk about why the North Carolina protests draw so few minorities despite polls showing more blacks than whites opposed to the war. "Black folk have a deep sense of American injustice," says Whitfield, "a great, big black guy" himself. "But when you ask why they're not fighting (the war) over there, it's because we're fighting down here in the community."

Reaching down to find new allies is harder than just firing up the buses to march on Raleigh or Washington, Whitfield acknowledges. "It is, but I've been called a 'strange optimist' about it, too. We're living in times when we finally may be at a turning point. George Bush didn't mean to give us an organizing opportunity, obviously, but he did. So, bless him."

And April 19, he adds, is just a starting date for that.

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Or, don't wait. On Friday, April 4, in Raleigh, a 4 p.m. "Prayer Vigil for Peace" at Martin Luther King Memorial Gardens, corner of MLK Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road, will commemorate King's death. It's sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Wake County, the N.C. Council of Churches and Raleigh's MLK Committee, with a broadly interdenominational speakers list. "War Erodes Our Communities," "Is this Really America?" and "The Faith Community Must Act Now" are among the subject titles.

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Duany's in Town. Following up on our cover story of March 12 about planning reform efforts in Raleigh, who should turn up in the city last week by New Urbanist guru Andres Duany himself. The Miami-based architect and urban planner, whose ideas for bringing downtowns to life are catching on around the country--but not, until recently, around here--was looking to put his money where his mouth is. Or his investors' money, anyway.

Duany's created "The Fund for New Urbanism" with the goal of "putting the right projects in the right places." Too often, he says, he's hired by someone who's already picked the wrong place for urban infill or an urban village of the kind Duany promotes.

Raleigh's high on his list, he says, because he loves state capitals ("they have an overlay of people who care deeply for them"), and because Raleigh's downtown is "in play" and rife with opportunities. He had lunch with Mayor Charles Meeker and Planning Commission member Thomas Crowder, who was featured in our story. If you've got a hot infill or "greenfields" site for Duany, check out www.newurbanfund.com.

Send your protest news and infill development sites to rjgeary@aol.com.

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