This spring, twelve months after 10 Years + Counting was imagined at lunch during the Costs of War Residency at Blue Mountain Center, BMC hosted a conference to make 10YAC real and make it count: How could we use art and its vast audience—during the tenth anniversary season between the attacks on 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7—to wake up our fellow Americans to the costs—the monetary, physical, spiritual, social, environmental, and political costs—of our current wars?
A palpable current of excitement and determination and possibility charged through the BMC living room. It steadily powered the conference for four days, as artists and activists from some of the most influential and committed anti-war/pro-peace movements, groups, and institutions in the United States threw all their expertise, passion, and creativity into the project of raising our collective consciousness to stop the wars.
Often enough, street protests were mentioned, and uncertainty and near despair followed as our thoughts moved from the influential anti–Viet Nam War protests of the 1960s and early 70s to the subsequent protests against other unbidden and undeclared wars, which fell on deaf legislative and fellow-citizen ears; from the 1990s era of police brutality against citizens protesting war and the social ills caused by corporate control of world resources to the creation and enforcement of Bush-era regulations that relocate crowds so far away from their political targets as to corral their legitimate protests into self-referential circles rather than allow pointed, peaceful actions to change the status quo.
Despite the current climate, a simple, elegant idea emerged in the BMC living room. It had a hopeful tinge of difference. Thinking about it, on top of all the ideas and connections and strategies that had formed in that room made me feel that my head was going to explode.
Good. Better my head explode metaphorically than more people than the 225,000 and counting meet their real deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
The idea requires no organization, only dissemination. It requires individual commitment, which might organically expand into group commitment. It’s an exhortation and an invitation, a hope and a call. A dream to make come true.
What if on October 7, everyone who wants to end the undeclared US wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan steps outside and says so?
What if people who want to protest peacefully on their own stoop or lawn, meet peacefully in a public park or on a neighbor’s lawn—in small groups or large, in pairs, or trios, with silence, signs, or candles—step outside and make it known that we are part of a nationwide peaceful protest to bring war and its costs, costs that reverberate through time, to an end?
I will be in the Adirondack Mountains, holding my sign, my candle, my vigil, on a country road. I will wait for company. Please join me, wherever you are.
Alice Gordon is a writer and editor, and has been the program director of Blue Mountain Center since 2009.