A new film by Melody Weinstein, Michael T. Heaney, and Marco Roldán explores what turns ordinary citizens into activists. Through interviews and ethnographic-style coverage of the peace movement between June 2008 and March 2010, the film explores the risks, process, and joys of activism. Heaney brings his years of social movement scholarship on the peace movement, on display in an earlier Essay Dialogue, to the screen in this impressive documentary.
I was immediately drawn into the film as it opens with shots of veterans and miltiary famileis I interviewed in the peace movement, including Gold Star Father Carlos Arredondo, Retired Let. Col. Anne Wright, and Iraq veteran Geoff Millard. Although Americans with military connections get a decent share of coverage, the film covers the wide spectrum of activists invovled in the many peace movement organizations. Interspersed with the new are snipets of classic peace movement speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr. and songs such as “War!”
The film is available for a limited time streaming online from Melofilms on Vimeo.
The 40th anniversary cover of Ms. Magazine shows Wonder Woman swooping in to help protesters stop the “war on women.” This cover resembles their original cover in ’72 when the Amazon “warrior princess” was rushing to bring peace and justice to the world[i], but this time there are mortals (albeit all women) who are standing up and taking action, too. Then, as now, Diana’s powers as well as her lasso of truth[ii] could come in handy in the movement for equality.
This cover reveals the importance of imagination and the desire for a powerful and (politically) attractive leader in protest movements. Activists have called upon the superhero imagination when dancing in Chile for educational reform or when Occupy Wall Street protestors created “Unemployment Man.” As Peter Drier pointed out in his essay on teaching about social movements, activism requires a bit of dreaming. If activists couldn’t imagine a better future, there would be no goals to strive for except policies and cultural aspects we’ve seen before. If only we had a modern day Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi endowed with magical abilities to help us accomplish those dreams.
I’d love to hear about the role of other superheroes in protest or see fan fiction in which superheroes interact with movements, so join Ms. and share others or your own lofty dreams to magically get success for a movement.
[i] It is notable that the Ms. cover of 2012 focuses narrowly on feminist causes, despite the U.S. entering its eleventh year of war in Afghanistan and continuing economic and racial inequality.
The Olympic Committee may stifle protest but it was alive and well in the 2012 London Games’ Opening Ceremony. See this article in Sports Illustrated for more on the statements made and the Olympic history of protest (excluding those made by the PLO in the murder of Israeli athletes in 1972). Political opinions were expressed last night in the pageantry about national healthcare, women’s suffrage, global cooperation, peace/war, internet repression & access, labor/capitalism, and more.
A recent, tear-inducing article in Slate covers an important aspect of social movements and their outcomes, particularly the important roles they play in changing institutional policies/structures and people’s lives. It covers the first gay wedding on a military installation and highlights the important role of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in this historic moment.
Although the article doesn’t describe these trail-blazing men as activists per se, in the article you see glimpses of their connection to the wider movement for openness and equality in the military. Continue reading
Want a side of bland, vague politics with your coffee? Then please visit Starbucks!! You can also get a free cup of coffee today (July 4) if you tweet the hashtag “indivisible.” (Something tells me your local barista won’t know whether you actually tweeted it…) While editing this morning I was introduced to their new campaign to stop the partisan bickering via their bulletin board and their bags of coffee.
No stranger to politics, this is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s latest attempt to enter into politics in an uncontroversial way. He made statements and has done some work to get corporate leaders to end their financial contributions to politics and create jobs in the United States. In an interview with CNN he described some success in this work.
What do you think about this latest foray into politics by a large corporation? Is it a way to sell more (as Jim Edwards suggests) and tap into public sentiments about political topics, ala Miley Cirus’s Occupy song?
The number and scale of national protests aimed at ending the Iraq War were significantly smaller beginning in 2007 than they had been in the earlier years and lead-up to the war (see Heaney & Rojas’s 2011).
While many in the peace movement remained active as the Iraq War continued for five more years, their political actions were much more fragmented and radicalized from 2007 onward. The diminishing size and scope of Iraq War protests contradict public opinion because it was not as though the war became popular among Americans in its later years. Instead while public opinion about the Iraq War became more negative, large political actions against the war decreased. In this essay, I examine how civilians’ distance from the Iraq War contributed to this contradiction. Continue reading
In the battle over abortion and contraception, activists have a new favorite word: Vagina. When Michigan state Representative Lisa Brown used this anatomical term in the debates over Michigan Republican’s sweepingly pro-life legislative moves, she probably had no idea she was inspiring women to join Even Ensler’s bandwagon and produce their own Vagina Monologues, but inspire she did as you can see here in the coverage of a Lansing, MI protest that included a staging of that play and in this popular image found all over the web:
ACLU Michigan on the Vagina Controversy
This weekend U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan intend to return their military medals in a tactic that is reminiscent of the 1971 Operation Dewey Canyon III protest, where over 800 Vietnam War veterans threw their medals and service ribbons onto the Capitol steps (see video below). These younger veterans, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, intend that their “return” of the medals not only protest NATO for its leadership in the global war on terror but also provide them with some emotional and psychological healing from the traumatic events they took part in during their service.For more on the protest see the news coverage of the upcoming march and action here and here OR you could go watch it yourself on Sunday if you are in the Chicago area (If you do that- please send me pictures!).
Although, the tactic is similar to the anti-Vietnam War action in its protest of the now-unpopular but decade+ war in Afghanistan that continues, but this latest cadre of military veterans are using this as an opportunity to draw attention to the need for increased and more efficient services for veterans. By linking this tactic to healing, the veterans are calling attention to the “invisible wounds of war” and the gaping holes in the VA system. Additionally, IVAW is drawing attention to one of the biggest differences between the Vietnam-era draft and the “all volunteer” military of today where servicemembers regularly deploy for multiple tours to war zones, even when they are already traumatized or injured. Their organizing against the return of “traumatized vets” can be seen here.
Seen any other protests that demonstrate Peter Allen‘s quote “”Everything old is new again”?
I received an announcement some social movement scholars and activists interested in issues of racial equality and cross-racial coalitions may want to check out. May 30-June 1, 2010 the John Hope Franklin Center will host the 3rd Annual Reconciliation in America conference, which is meant to “Combine Academic Discussions with Real-World Solutions” at the Hyatt Regency, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can preview the entire program here or register for this event here. Details from their email are below:
In light of recent tragic events, Tulsa has become center stage in a national dialogue of racial tensions within our society. Yet, in all the talk of violence and justice, the idea of long-term reconciliation is often lost.
We all have a part to play in bringing racial reconciliation to our communities. But what are we doing about it today?
The John Hope Franklin Center’s 3rd Annual Reconciliation in America symposium will bring together the nation’s top thinkers, community leaders and activists to Tulsa to generate concrete solutions.
This year’s program includes:
- Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi and an internationally known scholar and humanitarian, will speak on “Reconciliation and the American Dream: Pointers from Gandhi & King.”
- Town Hall: “Cityscape – Former Mayors Reflect on Reconciliation Efforts,” a panel of innovative, forward-thinking American mayors with Tulsa’s dynamic former mayors Kathy Taylor and Susan Savage, plus former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.
- Governor William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi.
- Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College.
- Dr. George Henderson, creator of the Human Relations Program at the University of Oklahoma.
- Dr. Donald W. Shriver, Jr., an ethicist and President Emeritus of Union Seminary in New York City.
- Reverend Doug Tanner, Senior Advisor of the Faith & Politics Institute in Washington, D.C.
The United States Conference on Catholic Bishops has attempted to influence politics in ways that support both of the U.S.’s leading political party’s arguments in the last few months. From February to March this organization along with others was involved in important framing contests over insurance coverage of contraception. The Bishops argument at that time appeared to align with Republican interests, furthering the perception that it is the party of American religious individuals. Today they also entered the fray over the Budget by critiquing the Republican Party. This time the argument was that the House budget, which passed along party lines, placed too great of a burden on the poor and demonstrated moral failing. Once again the Bishops used publicity and letter writing tactics to get their point across. It remains to be seen whether Democrats will be able to utilize this to claim any high ground relating to morality or whether this influences the Senate vote.
Complicating this issue further, the Vatican appointed a Bishop to oversee a group of American nuns whose protest was deemed too liberal. A 4 year investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious resulted in a Vatican document that criticized the 0rganization for working “too much on poverty and economic injustice” and occasionally challenging the church on gender and sexuality issues. Following the work of Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, Tricia Colleen Bruce examine intra-institutional social movement activism in the Catholic Church; as that work suggests this document is an attempt to constrain and define Catholic identity. It will be interesting to see how the Women Religious respond to these charges of not being Catholic enough..
How do you think these protests will affect forthcoming policy and politician changes (if at all)? How will the Catholic Church be affected by these public fights over faith and politics (not that they are new)?