Preach Outside Choir

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Tuesday, December 17, 2002 at 2:34PM :

December 16, 2002
St Paul Pioneer Press
Sabo: Preach Outside Choir
by Casey Selix

About 350 people interested in pushing for peace packed the pews of a Minneapolis church Sunday afternoon, but they were advised to quit preaching just to the choir.

U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, one of five Minnesota members of Congress who voted against authorizing war with Iraq in October, told people to spread the word to unlikely quarters.

"My observation in American politics is that most people talk to people who think like themselves regardless of where they are in the political spectrum,'' the Minneapolis DFLer told the audience at Lyndale United Church of Christ. "You need to have more cross-conversations. You've got to spend time with people who may be prospects, who are not already committed."

Sabo said he's not a big fan of rallies or demonstrations, and that sometimes "form and style" can "alienate" potentially sympathetic people. He pointed to the backlash resulting from the memorial service that some thought turned into a political rally for the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was a strong opponent of a war with Iraq.

The veteran congressman also said people need to contact President Bush about their opinions because the White House will be making the decisions about war.

Betty Tisel, a volunteer for Women Against Military Madness, said after Sabo's speech that she appreciated the congressman's advice but she stood by the effectiveness of organized protests.

"They can have a galvanizing effect on participants,'' she said. "They can inspire people to carry the work beyond the day and they can be used as a power plant to generate energy."

Tisel took Sabo's advice to heart though, telling the crowd that she planned to talk to the only neighbors at her Minneapolis intersection who don't have a "Say No to War With Iraq" sign in the yard.

One gauge of the antiwar sympathies in the Twin Cities, she said, is that WAMM keeps running out of the brown signs. About 1,000 have been sold so far (from $10 to $20), and another shipment arrives this week.

Another gauge of antiwar sympathies, organizers said, is that 300-plus people chose the town hall meeting with Sabo instead of going to the mall 10 days before Christmas or watching football.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who has attended other antiwar rallies, sat in the last pew of the church with his wife.

"I oppose war like many other people in the room,'' Rybak said as he prepared to leave the church. "I had the choice of watching the Vikings today or being with these people. I felt this was where I needed to be today."

The meeting, which was sponsored by the church's social justice committee, attracted the young, the old, the middle-aged. Liberals and conservatives munched on bars and Christmas cookies afterward.

Joshua Benson, 18, came for an optional school assignment from government teacher Meredith Aby at Bloomington Jefferson High School. Benson hopes to attend the U.S. Naval Academy; Aby is active with the Antiwar Committee in the Twin Cities.

"This has broadened my perspective and opened my eyes to other opinions, but it's not going to change my views,'' said Benson, who supports the Bush administration.

Said Aby: "Josh and I have respectfully disagreed on the war in Iraq. I want students to see the process. They don't have to agree with it, but they need to express themselves."

Copyright 2002 St Paul Pioneer Press

-- Lilly
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