Cindy Sheehan's announcement that she is leaving the anti-war movement is surprising, especially right on the heels of renouncing her support of the Democratic Party. Her frustration and disappointment with this dysfunctional system that our politicians mistakenly still call a democracy is understandable.
I also understand the pain she has experienced from the many lies and disparaging remarks made about her from the right and the left. It is extremely difficult to deal with that kind of mean spiritedness. Especially when devoting so much of your life to a cause that, at times, seems futile. But the cause continues, as does the movement.
Like any parent who looses a child, she felt responsibility and guilt. Therefore, she used those feelings to make a difference in the world. She worked hard at it and she did make a difference.
She gave the movement a voice and a face. That of an articulate, determined, grieving mother who demanded answers from her government. She captured the attention of vast numbers of Americans who, because of the attention finally given to her and the movement by the mainstream media, at last woke up to the fact that they were deceived by the Bush Administration, about Iraq's involvement in 911, connections to al Qaida, and WMD's.
She spoke to millions of people in this country and the world; Americans who now see how the fear mongers peddle fairy tales of terrorists who hate us for our freedoms; People who are tired of war for profit.
Because the national media focused on the anti-war movement by training their cameras on Cindy, an ever-growing number of people are becoming educated about a US foreign policy that exploits resources from sovereign countries around the world by whatever means the corporate gangsters instruct their bought and paid for politicians to enforce, including war.
Cindy, along with her supporters and followers and supporters of many other national groups, such as United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, ANSWER and Progressive Democrats of America, helped the peace and justice movement mobilize the country to send Democratic representatives and Senators to Washington to clean up this neo-con mess. There are literally too many to list. The movement is widespread. There are thousands of local grassroots organizations working for change. Many of us share her disappointment in a political system that has failed our country and us. Many of us grow weary at times, but the struggle continues.
The stress of waging peace is in many ways as great as the stress of waging war. Many peace activists have suffered hurt feelings and personal loses in their finances, their family, social and professional circles and sometimes must rotate out for a temporary break from the seemingly endless schedule of press conferences, speeches, demonstrations, letter writing and lobbying. Perhaps that is the case here. Burnout is a hazard of activism, the same as any 'legitimate' occupation. However, for most of us activists there are no financial benefits, only expenses. Our benefits must come from within. When we base our motives on expectations and outcomes in the short term, we will most often be disappointed. An anti-war movement is usually based on the outcome of ending a current war. The peace and justice movement seeks change within the basic structure of our society from that of an immature warring culture based on self-centered greed that benefits the few, to that of a mature culture seeking intelligent enlightened solutions that will benefit the entire world for generations to come.
I understand the stress that leadership of any endeavor entails. So perhaps we should be asking ourselves how we can each claim some of that leadership role so that one individual does not feel over burdened with such a heavy load. Perhaps we should examine the agenda of a media that seem obsessed with creating celebrity and a society that seems to feed off idolatry and castigation.
The peace and justice movement comprises many different facets of humanity thirsting for positive change. There are, and must be many leaders. We must all recognize the 'leader' within ourselves to continue that journey for change in our society, our government and our world.
Our movement is strong and growing stronger because of the committed individuals involved. Let us all join in the conversation to continue to reinvigorate and reorganize the idea that peace and justice is not only possible, but also necessary for the very survival of our planet.
Kay Lucas is director of the Crawford Texas Peace House,and can be reached at Liteworks201@aol.com.