Community urged to discuss peace
If not now, then when?
It's a question Appalachian State University senior political science major John Fortenberry has been asking himself.
When's the time to talk about the war in Iraq?
Fortenberry and the rest of the Campus Anti-war Network say it's April 10.
The group has scheduled what members hope will be the first annual Peace, Liberty and Justice Conference.
"Since we went [to Iraq], no one has really talked about all the lies that took us there in the first place," Fortenberry said. "I feel like there's a lot of misinformation out there and knowledge, to me, is really powerful, especially if the knowledge has a lot of research and truth behind it."
The conference isn't just about the war on terror.
The outline includes discussions on the war on drugs, mountaintop removal, the death penalty, Iran and the Patriot Act.
"Some of the discussions impact us all in this area ... with North Carolina being the second leading consumer of mountaintop removed coal, I thought it would be something we should take part in," he said.
Another relevant conference highlight will be "discussions on the failure on the war on drugs," he said.
"It seems like every day someone's getting busted for something and the courts are just backed up like crazy," he said.
Criminologist and ASU professor Dr. Matthew Robinson will lead the drug discussion.
"He has found that [the war on drugs] is very biased in the sense that it seems to be more after minorities and poor people," Fortenberry said.
It's an expensive war.
"We haven't really gone anywhere with our drug war ... I don't think we're winning ... why spend billions of dollars on a war if you're not really going anywhere?" Fortenberry said. "We can move more to harm reduction strategies and give folks rehab instead of throwing them in jail and having to spend more taxpayer money."
Fortenberry hopes to attract people outside the university to the conference, and even wants to reach out to people who do not share his politics.
"I feel like it's better to know what you're against and have knowledge of it then to just be against it because of your politics. It's better to have knowledge on both sides of the argument," he said.
He hopes more conservative residents of the High Country will accept his challenge to participate in the discussions.
"I want members of the community to participate ... and ask questions and try to learn more about all these topics," he said.
The Campus Anti-War Network is a pro-peace organization, Fortenberry said.
"We're really just trying to highlight the violent side of all these wars and show peaceful solutions can make a better impact," he said.
If Fortenberry's name sounds familiar, it should.
Last election cycle, he considered a filing to run against democrat Cullie Tarleton to represent the 93rd district in the North Carolina House of Representatives, but decided against it before the primaries.
Prepare to hear his name again, and not just as the president of the Campus Anti-War Network.
Fortenberry graduates in May and, while grad school is on the horizon, the 23-year-old anticipates a career in politics, particularly speaking out for environmental issues.
The Peace, Liberty and Justice Conference happens Saturday, April 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Grandfather Mountain Ballroom at the Plemmons Student Union at ASU.