By Medea Benjamin
My almost annual list of ten good things about the waning year has never before
posed such a tremendous challenge. In the face of this challenge, I decided
to try a minimalist thought experiment, blocking out the many baneful events
that colored 2009, and instead seeking out the small, yet powerfully bright
notes to inspire and give us hope for the year head.
1. Tens of thousands of people from around the
world took to the streets of Copenhagen to call for meaningful action to address
climate change, despite continuous attempts to squelch it. Inside Copenhagen’s
meeting halls, indigenous peoples from small island nations and the Himalayas
spoke powerfully about their rights and their needs.
2. According to recent polls a majority of Americans
now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and seventy-five percent
say no new troops should be sent to that country. Public opinion is on our side.
3. The creative use of Twitter by protesters in
Iran brought thousands of people into the streets of Teheran, including students,
young people and thousands of young women. Their courageous and innovative
use of social media kept the rest of the world informed of events, slipping
out from under the country’s blanket of censorship.
4. The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
Movement to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights
garnered the support of many groups around the world. The growing list of BDS
successes is too long to enumerate here, but to choose only one: In February
South African dockworkers, remembering the long history of Apartheid in their
country, refused to offload an Israeli ZIM Lines ship in Durban.
5. One of Obama’s first acts in office was to
lift the Global Gag Rule, which ended restrictions on U.S. funding for organizations
that provide family planning services and that are often the first responders
for women in the fight against HIV.
6. The Washington, DC City Council voted in mid-December
to legalize same-sex marriage, making it the first jurisdiction south of the
Mason-Dixon Line to do so. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Iowa, Vermont,
Massachusetts and Connecticut and will be legal in New Hampshire on January
1st. DC Mayor Fenty signed the bill on December 18, 2009.
7. Michelle Obama planted the White House’s first
organic vegetable garden, a garden that provided food for her own family’s table
and helped to educate the nation’s children about healthy eating.
8. 2009 may go down as the beginning of the end
of the failed “War on Drugs”. The Obama administration announced that the federal
government would no longer arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and
caregivers as long as they were following their state’s medical marijuana laws.
9. Last year, CODEPINK launched a campaign calling
upon the FBI to add Luis Posada Carilles, a ruthless terrorist who was responsible
for downing a Cuban airplane in 1976, to the Most Wanted List and arrest him.
On April 8, he was indicted on 11 counts.
10. Obama’s Nobel Prize victory sparked a global debate about what it takes
to be a real peacemaker. While many of us were aghast that a president who has escalated a war was receiving the world's principal peace honor, the aspirational goal of the prize is an added pressure on both the Obama administration and us at the grass roots. We realized that we are the ones who have to make peace, that the impetus is as much on us to turn hope into action.
I looked around and saw the women of CODEPINK, the impassioned environmental
activists in Copenhagen, the young Israeli refuseniks, Afghan parliamentarian
Malalai Joya, and all our friends and allies working for peace and social justice
around this country and the world, and realized that WE are the hope and change
we have been waiting for.
Even after all the disappointments of this year,
the items on this list and our own strength and persistence give me immense
hope in the possibilities to come as we greet the New Year.
So here's a toast to our power and our passion—we have
our work cut out for us in 2010!
Support CODEPINK's work for the coming year and help us continue to be a part of the hope and change we want to see!
When you make a donation of $50 or more you will receive a deck of our new War Criminal Cards in collaboration with After Downing Street,
designed by Iraqi designer, Marina Murad. Marina was born in Baghdad
and her family escaped to Amman, Jordan during the height of the first
Gulf War. They immigrated to America in the early 1990's. She grew up
in Redlands, California, and received her BA from University of
California, Riverside in Fine Arts. She is currently obtaining her MFA
from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. She designed these cards as part of her personal commitment to peace and justice.