Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, and many of my friends had Facebook posts about the radical anti-war origins of this holiday.
In 1870 feminist Julia Ward Howe penned the anti-war “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” which begins:
Arise then … women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
We were moving from New York City to the Washington DC area when the events of September 11, 2001 happened. As Pat watched the horrifying news coverage that morning, she started repeating three words in her mind—Peace, Salaam, Shalom—like a mantra. Soon, she was singing them. That Friday night, we sang “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” as we walked in a candlelight vigil through a largely Muslim neighborhood in DC. Two men sitting on a nearby stoop got up and joined the vigil. “We heard you singing ‘salaam’ and ‘shalom’ together. We are Israeli.”
Less than a month later, we went to sing at the first peace march in NYC after 9/11. The theme of the gathering that day was “Our grief is not a cry for war.” As we arrived at the rally, we heard the radio announcement that the Bush Administration had begun the preemptive bombing of Afghanistan. Once on stage, the organizers were preparing to announce the news to the already traumatized crowd and asked us if we had a song that could get everyone singing. We kicked off the march, leading “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” with the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus and percussionist, Robin Burdulis accompanying. 10,000 people sang with us, all the way from Union Square to Times Square. Even amidst the massive news coverage of the bombing, the song was mentioned in The New York Times the next day. Continue reading
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.
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”?
If you find yourself with some extra time over the holidays and haven’t yet caught the Women, War and Peace series from PBS, get thee to the nearest electronic device with a screen and have a seat. The entire five-part series is now available online, but if your time is limited, start with Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This episode chronicles the journey of 2011 Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and her comrades as they used creative forms of nonviolent protest to demand and secure peace in Liberia after years of civil war. The women of Liberia are a force, and their story is deeply moving. Moreover, for students of social movements, the Liberian case is a fascinating illustration of agency. These women didn’t wait for an opportunity; they made one.
Although Heaney and Rojas (2011) attribute the demobilization of the U.S. peace movement from 2007-2010 largely to a shift of participants from social movement activism to partisan politics, certainly the attention of the American public shifted at this time as well. Public opinion polls and searches of media articles reveal decreasing attention to the wars happening alongside increasing interest in national economic trends. Beginning in earnest in 2008, major coalitions of peace protesters attempted to stem the tide and link their claims against the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the economic downturn. They attempted, largely in vain, to bring attention back to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the majority of Americans were focused on the mortgage meltdown and the possibility of failing banks.
Certainly the U.S. engagement in war, without any increase in tax revenue has increased the deficit. Continue reading