I was very fortunate to be able to share my thoughts about intergenerational and intercultural learning on the Vietnam War at the Democracy Convention held this week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In a session with Prof. Amy Finnegan from Peace and Justice Studies at the University of St. Thomas, I spoke about the possibilities and challenges of dialogues about that War. Talking together with people who are older or younger than you pushes you to drop your age prejudices, whichever direction they may apply. I’ve heard so many older activists say “where are the young people” as if those young people are not doing anything worth our attention. I’ve heard young people show amazement at the idealism, energy, persistence of their elders, as if they expected old people to be conservative, burned out, and defeated. I also mentioned the prejudices peace activists sometimes express about Cold War refugees and immigrants, as if they must all be “hard-core anticommunists” devotees of militarism and colonial domination. Conversely, I know second-generation refugees who dread encounters with peace activists, whom they expect will exotify and otherize them. It’s a minefield of emotional wounds and fears–what else would we expect of war, antiwar movements, and the aftermath?
The conference provided an amazing opportunity to plug back into the currents of grassroots political movements. It was inspiring to see the continued efforts of U.S. peace activists to educate themselves and others.
It was also an opportunity for me to plug myself as a “peace educator.” When the peace movement is weakened by class, gender, and race bias, it is exciting to have a chance to offer a new view.
Throughout the conference, the work of many younger people of color and working class was often referenced and sometimes featured, including queer and trans activists, the Million Artist Movement, Standing Rock, and of course, Black Lives Matter. Although those gestures at solidarity were sometimes lacking skill or commitment, the fact is that we are all aware of the need to work together to confront multidimensional world crises. In time, with work–and with humility, wisdom, and kindness–we will build another world.