I joined the local anti-war movement in the months before that dreadful evening when we saw parts of
The government ignored people in the streets because it could, because they banked on the fact that very few people ever intended on doing anything more than marching down a few streets waving signs. The system of government that James Madison and others devised is so clever that the process of electoral politics naturally defuses and diffuses almost any social movement that dares to use that process for its own political ends. Electoral majorities are forged from the lowest common denominator, and those denominators often involve implicit contradictions. In this country, those denominators are represented by the Democratic and Republican parties, and both of those parties are heavily funded from most of the same corporate interests. Yet, even if you resist the lure of the lowest common denominator, is it enough simply to have the right ideas if all you intend to do is walk down the street with a sign?
I was drawn into this phase of my activism by the war in
However, that was no way to live.
In spite of the fact that the anti-war movement has failed miserably to have any noticeable effect on the war in Iraq, on militarism in general, and in the U.S. has done an abysmal job of connecting the issues of war with the other evils of society which share their causes in the oppressive natures of patriarchy and capitalism, I can think of no other place that I would rather be. What the anti-war movement has given me is a community of support that allows the freedom to reject the cynical view of the world I had before the war in
Yet, far from paralyzing me from action, that knowledge has given me a sense of a set of directions we need to go, namely that we must dismantle and resist anyone who purports to know better, whether it is knowing better for the Iraqi people, or for the poor, or for the environment itself. I find myself as suspicious of good government liberals as I am of rightwingers who offer corporate solutions. I am suspicious of solutions except the one that is deconstructive and dissenting, a voice that says loudly, “No!” And, yet, such a “No!” is not a pure negative, as though there is anything we could ever desire that’s pure in the world, as though there was only one worthwhile color in the world, whether that be the color of a person’s skin, or the color of a flag. In that “No!”, we find a different kind of impulse that is very positive. In other words, how we say “No!” contrasts markedly from what we find ourselves resisting against. When we for instance take action against the war in
On February 15, 2003, more than 3 years ago, we marched in
Why is that?
I believe that we have never fully committed to actions which can successfully turn back the fear and disempowerment that keep so many people suffering, and I sense that people are finally beginning to have a conversation about taking steps that go beyond a commitment to parade with signs in the street. I see that local empowerment is spreading, and that groups are more inclined to see that their fate rests in their own hands. Fighting against the war goes far beyond fighting against the policies of your own government; it goes to fighting oppression everywhere, especially when that oppression exists within your own movement – United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER take note.
Years of activity and networking and making connections both with issues and with people across the country have helped us in the movement develop not only a class consciousness but a concrete consciousness of each other. Resistance has a face, and by that I don’t mean Cindy Sheehan. There are growing numbers of us who are beginning to understand not simply that we are not just after an end to the war in
I see it in the people power campaigns that are developing to destroy Caterpillar and Halliburton; in the willingness of demonstrators to go to the homes of those who aid war criminals; in the willingness to accept the fact that we are all culpable in this war and that no person, least of all us in the movement, are immune from criticism and ultimately direct action to make things right. If the troops must face a moral culpability for firing shots that they could refuse to take, we face a moral culpability for sitting at home and doing nothing or marching in the streets under the pretense that we are “doing our share.” Our failure to take direct action to fight against human pretentiousness is the worst kind of complicity of all. We have no right to be disempowered.
Of course, any direct action will create consequences we could not possibly fathom, many of them undoubtedly negative. So, what makes our action different? What is so great about giving up the pretense of making a better world if we will ultimately do things whose effects we cannot possibly understand. Our actions are different and better in at least one crucial respect, in that given the two visions, one with a clear focus and one that is so out of focus (we are the ones who are out of focus and seeking to smash the lenses of humanity), it is we who have the only possibility at all of affirming lively interaction, since we no longer seek to control our resources and our outcomes, but merely to destroy those things that cause us to think we can lord over resources and outcomes (when that’s impossible). That is, we are one step closer to the sheer complexity of reality, and if we are asking why that is so good, we have asked ourselves a question that is self contradictory from the start. But, rather than go into that now, let’s phrase it as a choice. Would we rather act as brothers and sisters, or would we rather have a parental relationship, even knowing that there’s no hope of controlling the children you raise? Isn’t there something fundamentally better about giving up the fiction of control when you can have the reality of myriads of one-on-one relationships?
I may have seemed to have drifted from the anniversary of the war in
People here in DC will be marching, they will be taking direct action, and they will be trying to make the connections through community service actions. All of that ultimately will lead to questions about how effective we are. I am glad that we are asking those questions. Now is the time to remember, to empathize with the suffering, and to get to know each other better so that we can think hard about the steps we need to take so that the government can no longer ignore us, so that they try to repress us and ultimately fail at that repression.
We have to see this occasion in those terms if we are to stop the forward progression of our brutal history. In all we do, let’s think about how we can stop war, and what we can do to say, “No!” There is no better world, no peace, and no art until we think hard about how to destroy the pretense of a better world, peace, and beauty. That’s the very positive message I will take to the streets as we take our next steps together this weekend.