10/08/2005

3 year old on DC Peace March: “I don’t want moms to cry any more.”

The Peace Movement, Putting it all Together

By Erik Leaver

On my way to the massive rally against the Iraq War this past weekend I was having a bit of difficulty explaining to my two children, ages three and five, what the day was all about. As we walked on to the Ellipse we saw a giant display of pictures of the 1,900 soldiers who have died in the war. A mom, wearing her son’s camouflage jacket with a beautiful gold star sewn on the back was huddled over a picture crying. As we were interviewed by a TV camera later that morning my three-year-old responded to the question, “why are you here?” by saying, “I don’t want moms to cry any more.”

The hundreds of thousands of people who crowded into the streets, shared that sentiment during he march. Drawn to D.C. and inspired by Cindy Sheehan and the tumbling poll numbers of the president’s management of the war, the crowd stood in awe of the human face Cindy has put on the war. Many carried pictures of the fallen or paraded with coffins. Others held pictures of deceased Iraqis and chills were raised by the activists wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods standing in solidarity with abused Iraqi prisoners.

Even more inspiring than these displays of human compassion for both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians was the understanding by activists that getting on a bus to Washington and going to a march is just one small step in trying to stop this war. An enormous concert, Operation Ceasefire, was held later that day adding in the vital element of culture to the weekend. Drawing in the old guard with Joan Baez and the new with Thievery Corporation, the concert accomplished what many often talk about but few do—bridging the generation gap. A small but important step was taken to broaden the depth and reach of the movement by those organizing, and attending, the concert. And behind the scenes many of the very diverse speakers on the stage were strategizing on how to bridge the racial gap as well.

On Sunday, a “tent revival” style ecumenical service was held in the evening down on the Mall. Under the leadership of United for Peace and Justice, the service served notice that the role of religion in politics is about to take another turn. Ground is being broken for churches to become the centerpiece for anti-war sentiment that will find itself into regular Sunday sermons.

Monday morning saw a civil disobedience action in front of the White House headed by Cindy Sheehan in which 370 people got arrested. And while the cameras were in front of the White House, United for Peace and Justice took to the halls of congress for the first time since they formed. Over 800 members took part in 273 meetings with Republicans and Democrats alike. There is a growing awareness that simply marching in the streets isn’t going to bring the troops home. It is going to take an act of the Congress to reach this milestone, and UFPJ is putting itself squarely in the discussions on the Hill about a responsible way to bring the troops home and internationalize the peace.

It’s clear that the peace movement has a long way to go. The Senate is on the cusp of adding an additional $50 billion to the Iraq War’s tab, bringing the current tab for the war to $250 billion dollars with no clear plan on how to move forward. Despite the failure of U.S. efforts to train Iraqi soldiers and to bring U.S.-style to democracy, the Bush administration remains adamant about “Staying the Course.” But just as the administration ignored the warnings about hurricane Katrina until it was too late, so too is it ignoring the winds of change within the peace movement. It’s building strength and it’s not going to stop.

The Peace Movement, Putting it all Together

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