i often feel that symbolic actions, non-violent civil disobedience and “peaceful” protesting leave a lot to be desired in terms of effect. this is not to say i don’t believe in a diversity of tactics, but it’s always a question of which tactic fits a given situation and whether the work put into organizing anything will have at least ripple out to some greater movement.
but – in the case of cindy sheehan – i can’t imagine a more powerful statement and i can see in her actions the seed of something that could have a powerful effect on the amercian psyche when it comes to the war.
this has gotten little press in canada because we are already so smugly anti-war up here – so if you haven’t heard of cindy, it’s not much of a surprise – though she is getting a lot of press attention in the states right now. to recap: cindy sheehan is the mother of casey sheehan, a 24-year old soldier who was killed last year in iraq. cindy believes that she has the right to speak to george bush, the man who consigned her son to death when he re-engaged the us military in iraq in 2003, and she is outraged by his refusal to meet with her and other grieving mothers who have fast come to the conclusion that the war in iraq certainly isn’t worth the price that so many families are having to pay. to that end, she has been waiting on the road outside of george bush’s texas ranch for the past several days. he continues to refuse to meet with her. (there is an excellent blog-post on the whole affair at the martian anthropologist which worth a read)
more and more women are going to join cindy there, outside the ranch, and the president’s people are threatening to have her arrested as a threat to national security. how about that twist in the plot of the new america? who suspected that grieving mothers could become terrorists with a few deftly placed media lines, and thus swept off the road and into the cells?
cindy, alone, has been a powerful presence in the us media in the past several days. she may or may not be arrested for essentially being a witness to war crimes. but no matter what happens in her individual case, the power of her actiongrowing is palpable. can you imagine if more grieving mothers started to turn up? what if grieving wives and children (and husbands, and fathers too) likewise turned up at the ranch in these last few weeks of bush’s summer holidays? would people shake their heads at the president? would they demand more? would it help to further undermine public support in the bloody mess that was stirred up when the sights were set over a decade ago?
the cynic in me says – no – cindy sheehan will fade away in the media once a shinier story is found by fickle journalists and the public will go back to their regularly scheduled programming…. but there is always a small part of me that hopes this small symbolic action will be the tipping point – the point of no return for the pro-war policies of the american politicians (from both parties) – the point at which the american people realize their dependence on foreign oil is a dependence on misery and death, not only of the people who live in the desert, but of their own as well. the point at which the people demand more of themselves, of their country, of their leaders. the point at which the troops are brought home.
is cindy the tipping point? or do we still have a much longer distance to go?