A chorus of voices has reached out to Cindy Sheehan following her resignation as the face of the anti-war movement.
Activists like my friend Daniel Fearn, a former Marine sergeant representing the justice side of the peace and justice movement, were compelled to express what the Peace Mom means to them. There are hundreds of “Letters to Cindy” on independent news sites, blogs, Craigslist and widely forwarded emails.
Sheehan didn’t start the anti-war movement, but like an alternative crossover star breaking into the mainstream, she showed that being anti-war was fast becoming a majority value. She gave us cause to reach out to her and each other when she challenged “the commander guy” on his turf in August 2005. She did it again this Memorial Day when fatigued, frustrated and fed up with the Democrats and the apathetic, she announced she was retreating from anti-war activism.
One of the most sharply painful open letters came from Samir Adil, president of the Iraq Freedom Congress. Adil is a labor activist from Baghdad who was jailed and tortured for his opposition to the Saddam regime. In recent years he’s traveled the world to build solidarity with Iraq’s workers, denounced Islamic fundamentalism, debated neocon Richard Perle, and worked to unify Iraqis who live in a constant state of violent chaos. Adil is reminding all of us how much the Iraqi people are counting on people of conscience to bring the occupation to an end.
Recalling the times he met Sheehan Adil wrote:
“On both occasions, we supported and emboldened each other, and pledged to continue the struggle for humanity in the United States of America and Iraq, in order not to repeat the tragedy of yours and thousands of other mothers in the U.S. and Iraq. Retreating at this particular time means that the U.S. Administration and the blood-sucking corporations are victorious in this battle. The U.S. Administration today is suffering under the blows of the anti-war movement in your country where you are one of its leaders, figures and symbols. How can you proclaim today the withdrawal from this battle in which our victory will benefit mankind not only in the United States of America, but in Iraq and all over the world?
Dear Cindy...think about us in Iraq. What can we say about ourselves? The occupation forces are committing hundreds of crimes every day. They arrest, torture, indiscriminately kill, destroy, burn houses, rape and unleash gangs and thieves as long as they are not in their way. Think about us when we witness dozens of young people as young as your son Casey’s age being abducted. What can we say when they steal the smiles and joy from the eyes of our children and displace millions of our families? What can we say when they try to take our hope away from us every day?
Despite all those calamities and difficulties created by these forces, we have decided to continue our struggle to end the occupation.... we have no choice; either ascend to the highest hills and watch how the fire expands and ravages large areas, or carry on the struggle to save humanity in Iraq and the United States.”
Adil’s letter, together with the hundreds of other heartfelt messages of solidarity shared in the past week, can be seen as a pledge that we – and the Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalians and others who are suffering tonight because of this brutal effort at empire building – cannot envision ever standing down. If anything, we are more resolved and potent through our growing unity.
When cycling between feelings of hope and despair, take comfort from these words from Howard Zinn:
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
Don’t forget to breathe weary warriors. You are not alone.