ENOSBURG FALLS -- What can a small group of individuals living in the hills of Vermont do about war-and-peace issues on the international stage? Quite a bit, actually -- or so suggested the approximately 35 people who gathered last Saturday for the first Enosburg Peace Convention. In the face of daunting global dilemmas, local action is perhaps the most important of all.
"If we expect someone else to do it for us, we're going to fail. To have peace, we have to do it ourselves," said Miah King, one of the convention organizers. He is also an active member of the Enosburg Area Candlelight Vigil, which sponsored the event and has been meeting weekly since before the U.S. invasion of Iraq just over three years ago.
The convention was held at St. Matthew's Episcopal Parish Hall, tucked away on a back street of this northwestern Vermont village. Its resulting message of peace will be sent to officials at local, federal and international levels, including at the White House and the United Nations, King said.
The 770-word resolution calls for a "shift from a war economy" -- 42 percent of Vermonters' federal taxes go toward war -- to a "peace economy," as well as a return to constitutional rights at home, recognition of international law abroad, and a commitment to teaching and practicing peace. It also calls for an end to the Bush administration's "unconstitutional practices," including its policy of preemptive war. The resolution was unanimously agreed upon after a full day of sometimes heated debate about how to effect real change.
In addition to a diverse, 11-member panel of local, regional and international peace activists, human rights advocates and political organizers, the convention also featured original music from local high school rock band The Broadcasters, and essays written by local youth.
Regardless of what happens with the resolution, King said, the group plans to host a second convention next year, meanwhile promoting peace locally and demonstrating that antiwar sentiments are strong even outside of large urban areas.
"It's real, local, small communities that are willing to stand up," King said. "We want to really keep interacting with our community. We want to mainstream peace."