Sheehan thoughs over on Non​vi​o​lence​.org

Just a lit­tle note to every­one that I’ve blogged a cou­ple of posts over on Non​vi​o​lence​.org. They’re both based on “peace mom” Cindy Sheeran’s “res­ig­na­tion” from the peace move­ment yesterday.
It’s all a bit strange to see this from a long-time peace activist per­spec­tive. The move­ment that Sheehan’s talk­ing about and now cri­tiquing is not move­ment I’ve worked with for the last fifteen-plus years. The orga­ni­za­tions I’ve known have all been housed in crum­bling build­ings, with too-old car­pets and fur­ni­ture lift­ed as often as not from going out of busi­ness sales. Money’s tight and careers poten­tial­ly sac­ri­ficed to help build a world of shar­ing, car­ing and understanding.
The move­ment Shee­han talks about is fueled by mil­lions of dol­lars of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party-related mon­ey, with cam­paigns designed to mesh well with Par­ty goals via the so-called “527 groups”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/527_group and oth­er indi­rect mech­a­nisms. Big Media likes to crown these orga­ni­za­tions as _the_ anti­war move­ment, but as Shee­han and Amy Good­man dis­cuss in today’s “Democ­ra­cy Now interview”:http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07%2F05%2F30%2F1343232, cor­po­rate media will end up with much of the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars can­di­dates are now rais­ing. Shee­han makes an impas­sioned plea for peo­ple to sup­port those grass­roots cam­paigns that aren’t sup­port­ed by the “peace move­ment” but this rein­forces the notion that its the mon­eyed inter­ests that make up the move­ment. I’m sure she knows bet­ter but it’s hard to work for so long and to make so many sac­ri­fices and still be so casu­al­ly dis­missed – not just me but thou­sands of com­mit­ted activists I’ve known over the years.
There are a few peace orga­ni­za­tions in that hap­py medi­um between toad­y­ing and pover­ty (nice car­pets, souls still intact) but it mys­ti­fies me why there isn’t a broad­er base of sup­port for grass­roots activism. I myself decid­ed to leave pro­fes­sion­al peace work almost a decade ago after the my Non​vi​o​lence​.org project raised such piti­ful sums. At some point I decid­ed to stop whin­ing about this phe­nom­e­non and just look for better-paying employ­ment else­where but it still fas­ci­nates me from a soci­o­log­i­cal perspective.

On shoestrings and keepin’ on

There's some interesting follow-up on the Cindy Sheehan "resignation" (see yesterday's post). One fellow I corresponded with years ago gave a donation then sent an email urging us not to fall into despair. It's hard.
Go beyond Democratic Party fronts like MoveOne and you'll find the most of the peace movement is a ridiculously shoestring operation. Nonviolence.org's four month "ChipIn" fundraising campaign raised $50 per month but the sacrifice isn't just short-term--just try applying for a mainstream job with a resume chock full of social change work!
Michael Westmoreland-White over on the Levellers blog talks about "keeping going through the despair":http://levellers.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/needed-for-long-haul-peacemaking-a-spirituality-of-nonviolence/:
bq. This is a cautionary tale for the rest of us, including myself. Outrage, righteous indignation, anger, public grief, are all valid reactions to war and human rights abuses, but they will get us only so far. They may strain marriages and family life. They may lead to speech and action that is not in the spirit of nonviolence and active peacemaking. And, since imperialist militarism is a system (biblically speaking, a Power), it will resist change for the good. Work for justice and peace over the long haul requires spiritual discipline, requires deep roots in a spirituality of nonviolence, including cultivating the virtue of patience.
Michael's answer is specifically Christian but I think his advice to step back and attend to the roots of our activism is wise despite one's motivations.
Sheehan's retirement didn't stop her from "talking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning":http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/30/1343232. She talks about cash-starved peace activists and contrasts them with the tens of millions presidential candidates are raising, most of which will go to big media TV networks for ads. Sheehan says we need more than just an antiwar movement:
bq. Like, ending the Vietnam War was major, but people left the movement. It was an antiwar movement. They didn’t stay committed to true and lasting peace. And that’s what we really have to do.
More Cindy Sheehan reading across the blogosphere available via "Google":http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=cindy+sheehan&btnG=Search+Blogs and "Technorati":http://technorati.com/tag/cindy+sheehan.
And for those looking for a little good news check out the brand new site for the "Global Network for Nonviolence":http://gn-nonviolence.org/. I designed it for them as part of my "freelance design work":http://www.martinkelley.com but it's been a joy and a lot of fun to be working more closely with a good group of international activists again. Their "nonviolence links":http://gn-nonviolence.org/links.php page includes sites for some really committed grassroots peacemakers. This long-term peace work may not give us headlines in the New York Times but it's touched millions over the years. If humanity is ever going to grow into the kind of culture of peace Sheehan dreams of then we'll need a lot more wonderful projects like these.