Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Enemy Is Ourselves

I don't like using this blog to criticize other activist groups, but today I feel like I have to.

This morning, the radio show Letters to Washington had a round table on the anti-war movement, inspired by the report (not quite accurate, according to Democracy Now!) that the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan topped 1,000 in the last couple days. My friend David Solnit was on the panel, as was Medea Benjamin, founder of Code Pink, and some other people I can't actually remember right now. So they started out talking about how in order to reenergize the anti-war movement, we need to make alliances with people who are affected and outraged by the economic and budgetary crises in the country. They talked about making connections with the students organizing the March 4 protest of the dismantling of California's educational system.

Now that's obviously an idea I agree with; just today, I was making stickers for March 4. But it's not a new and untried idea. Back in the 1980s we were chanting, "Money for Jobs, Not for War," "Money for Health Care, Not for Warfare," "Money for Schools, Not for War," "Feed the People, Not the Pentagon." That was when the wars were in Central America, something the students organizing March 4 probably never even heard of. Back then I remember going to meetings where people explained and adjured and harangued each other that if we wanted poor people and people of color to join the movement to end the wars abroad we needed to start talking about the "war at home." In 1983, people from the various anti-war and social justice groups formed a Coalition for Jobs, Peace and Justice, which had an annual demonstration by the same name. It was a nice coming together for a day, but it did not succeed in creating a unified movement, and it certainly didn't succeed in putting an end to imperialist wars or the war-based economy.

So if it's not clear by now, I was kind of peed off right off the bat.
But then Medea Benjamin started talking about how we need to reach out to the Tea Party people, because they're also against the wars because we can't afford them. The host of the panel asked her if we were going to see joint Code Pink-Tea Party actions, and she said that that was being discussed. And then I lost it. As it happens, just last night I was at a meeting where someone said something similar about the movement for single-payer health care, that we should be able to make an alliance with the Tea Partiers because they hate the corporations too. My friend Deeg laid out very succinctly and eloquently why that's not possible. I sure wished she had been in that round table, and I also wished they were taking call-ins, since no one else on the panel decided to point out that the Tea Parties may hate corporations (though they are funded by them), and some of them may think the wars are too expensive, but they also hate "welfare cheats," which in their mind means (all) Black people, and they also hate paying taxes so that the children of immigrants can go to school, and they also hate that the President is an African American whom they believe is a socialist and a Muslim.

That an anti-war movement could even be considering for one moment reaching out to a group whose folk hero and keynote speaker is Sarah Palin shows that it is not serious about making alliances with the groups they started out saying they needed to ally with, groups which are largely people of color, immigrants, and people who need public financing for their education.

Moreover, a legitimate anti-war movement is not going to align with people whose opposition to the war is based on the cost, because a true anti-war movement knows that once we withdraw our troops, we cannot simply keep all the money at home. We are going to owe – we already owe – massive reparations to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. And you are never going to sell that to the Tea Party people.

Are we so afraid of poor people, people of color and youth that we would rather join up with gun-toting bigots? If so, we have met the enemy and it is us.

1 comment:

  1. The Tea Party people? Code Pink? This sounds like a case of political principles gone Code Blue to me. How can anyone take Medea Benjamin seriously if she chucks anything her natural allies could possibly believe in, only to throw in with a bunch of selfish, nearsighted, surreality-based buffoons? Not to put too fine a point on it.