World BEYOND War: a global movement to end all wars

Volunteer Spotlight: Robert (Bob) McKechnie

Each month, we share the stories of World BEYOND War volunteers around the world. Want to volunteer with World BEYOND War? Email greta@worldbeyondwar.org.

Location: California, USA

How did you get involved with World BEYOND War (WBW)?
I am a retired professional educator. After retirement I raised money for animal care and senior citizen ventures – good work. However, throughout those years, I continued to wonder what it would be like to raise money for a cause that really came from my heart. In January 2020 I attended a Rotary International Peace and Social Justice Conference and listened to David Swanson address the group about how it would be possible to end war. I was doubtful until he reminded us of some simple facts: we ended polio and other horrendous diseases. We ended slavery. We ended dueling. For some reason, these simple comments caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. Maybe it was simply a matter of readiness. Anyway, this would be the cause from my heart.

Early this year when everything went to Zoom, I reviewed the website and attended some events that described some of the highlights of World BEYOND War’s background and advocacy. That caused me to think about starting a chapter in my local area, the Coachella Valley of Southern California. At the same time, I met Darienne Hetherman, who was thinking about starting a chapter in the San Gabriel Valley, about 100 miles away. Thanks to Zoom and the telephone, we got together and decided to start a chapter for the entire State of California. This is ambitious. I took a basic course on advocacy and started to read supporting materials of the peace movement. Zoom remains our major way of communicating (as of September 2020). I’m astounded at the realization that my co-founder Dari and I have never met face-to-face.

What kinds of volunteer activities do you help with?
My co-coordinator Dari and I have worked hard to bring together a small community of people to discuss our ideas about advocacy. We schedule and plan meetings, talk with chapter members about their areas of interest, set up opportunities for people to participate, and research possibilities for future advocacy. This process has led to a framework for our chapter work. As a group we expect to:
• Inform ourselves about issues of war and peace through a reading group that will meet monthly
• Advocate for the California Peace Budget
• Research and advocate for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s legislation to reduce military spending in the United States by $350 billion

I expect to work with people on some of the things they can do to advance the cause as individuals. In my own case, I will address community and church groups throughout Southern California on issues of war and peace. I already have my first invitation to speak at a Rotary Club. Our local Unitarian Church is willing to host me. I also expect to write and submit op-eds and letters to the editor.

My sense is that a community of people must be guided by a set of values that act as a foundation for the work. As a result, I articulated vision and mission statements along with a set of 12 Principles to guide the group. My co-coordinator Dari is now considering the founding documents at this point.

What’s your top recommendation for someone who wants to get involved with WBW?
Here are some thoughts:
• Be intentional about a practice that will assure your own personal peace;
• Clarify what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do;
• Tell everyone you know what you’re doing for peace and social justice.

What keeps you inspired to advocate for change?
The United States is disintegrating. We are suffering serious social disorder in our streets, a deadly pandemic that is not being handled effectively, and economic breakdown that disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color. As a result, I am both inspired and motivated. At the same time, I am angry. We are awash in guns owned and used by people who think it’s appropriate to take the law into their own hands. The high level of wealth inequality is upsetting civil society. Systemic racism is killing us. We are also spending what wealth we do have on a war machine that does not make us safe. Greedy people amass fortunes from the astonishing levels of military spending. Meanwhile, the national leadership carries on as usual. As I said – inspired, motivated, angry.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your activism?
First of all, I love Zoom. It expands the possibilities for a chapter that covers all of California, a huge state with many opportunities. Zoom opened the way for me to meet and get to know my co-founder Dari fairly easily. Also, Zoom enables us to invite someone from the staff of Congresswoman Barbara Lee to address our group. If this works out, we will invite people from other groups and work to raise visibility for Lee’s venture, all through Zoom.

Secondly, the pandemic has clarified one daunting reality, my mortality. If I’m ever going to impact the world in positive ways, it has to be now. Time is limited. We must move ahead quickly. Speak out with clarity and force. Move forward. Demand change.

Posted September 20, 2020.

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