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Don't Get Mad, Get Political

[whitespace] Peace & Justice

Talking about politics today makes most people angry. But anger is an emotion that burns out fast. These days, a pissed-off scowl is apt to turn, rather quickly, into a cynical smirk--cynicism being the default spirit of the age.

That's fine, to a point, when it comes to the art and practice of citizenship, where a jaded eye is preferable to slack-jawed gullibility.

But cynicism can cut the legs out from under the desire to make change. And when a citizenry is thus debilitated, that's guaranteed to mean more stuff to be cynical about.

None of us should worry too much about losing our edge; the power elite are bound to continue with their parade of greed, corruption and ineptitude. But anyone who wants to find a way into public life in Silicon Valley is likely to see their anger morph into something more useful, politically speaking. There are scores of activist organizations throughout the Valley working to change this corner of the world. The list below is partial.

The Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in Palo Alto (650/326-8837) serves as a coordinating body for 39 local groups and also sponsors events and programs. Also oversees a 24-hour hotline:650/321-4464..

The Center for Economic Conversion in Mountain View (650/968-8798) hasn't managed to turn the hangars at Moffett Field into huge organic greenhouses yet, but it's working on finding alternatives to military spending, on the national and local level. Email: cec@igc.org.

The San Jose Peace Center (408/297-2299) takes the "Think Globally--Act Locally" adage to heart, working toward world peace by sponsoring conflict-resolution programs in area schools. The Center also features a library of books, films, slide-shows and videotapes. Affiliate organizations include the Community Homeless Alliance and the Committee to Undo Racism.

By mobilizing communities, raising awareness of labor issues and helping to support striking workers, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council (408/266-3790) acts as a political and monetary lifeline for 110 local unions in Santa Clara and San Benito counties.

For almost 30 years, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women (408/297-4NOW) has met once monthly to discuss women's issues, bend an ear to guest speakers and determine how best to wield its influence to improve conditions for women everywhere.

Planned Parenthood Advocates (408/297-5090 ext 421), the political sister group to, yes, Planned Parenthood, is a member of the hefty Pro Choice Coalition of Santa Clara Valley (408/536-0802).

The Preservation Action Council of San Jose (408/947-8025) works to stave off the steamrolling of the valley's rich history by the real estate boom. Care about the Montgomery Hotel, Jose Theater or any other historic buildings in the valley? Without PACSJ, we'd be kissing them goodbye without even putting up a fight.

The group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (say "P-Flag") has an office in San Jose (408/270-8182) and Palo Alto (650/857-1058), offering support for families and friends of lesbian and gay teens and adults. The Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Community Center in San Jose (408/293-2429) is an old-fashioned gathering place and political clubhouse, kinda.

Mark R. Sherwood, president of the California Tenants Association in Campbell (408-374-2741), is a pit bull in salesman's clothing. But if you're a renter, he's on your side.

Food Not Bombs feeds the homeless in St. James Park once a week, and People Against Welfare Rollbacks stages the occasional rally at the Federal Building. A phone contact for Food Not Bombs named "Adam" may be reached at 408/236-3463. Not necessarily a skateboard-anarchist, he nevertheless does not have a phone answering machine. The contact for POWR is chair Peggy Elwell at 294-4892.

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From the March 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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