Absent a national antiwar political formation on the horizon, local politics can point to the wave of the future. Take Sacramento. A peace-in is underway at the office of Doris Matsui in the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse, named after her late husband who represented California’s 5th congressional district for over two decades. She was elected for the first time last November to the House of Representatives for the same district.
Antiwar activists, of the Sacramento Coalition to End the War, have been sitting peacefully in her downtown office since January 14. A recent appearance by Cindy Sheehan, the Vallejo mother whose son Casey lost his life as a U.S. soldier on duty in Iraq, gave this Sacramento peace-in a boost. These protesters want a face-to-face meeting with Matsui to urge the Democratic congresswoman to vote for a binding resolution to stop funding the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Recently, she spoke with the antiwar activists by phone for just under an hour. In a letter to me dated January 28, Matsui says she has “opposed this war from the outset.” Concerning President George W. Bush’s recent troop escalation, however, she won’t put pen to paper to sign off on cutting tens of billions of dollars to fund the future occupation of Iraq. This recent phone conversation did not change her mind.
Why? Money for war talks powerfully in a national economy that for decades has relied on public subsidies to the military-congressional-industrial complex.
But the war costs are the highest for Americans with the lowest incomes. Consider this. In 2004, “the poorest 60 million Americans reported average incomes of less than $7 a day each,” according to the New York Times last November 28, in an article based on IRS data. The tax dollars spent on U.S. military actions in Iraq in 2004 could have been — but were not — spent to help these low-income citizens struggling to get by in the richest nation ever (at least in terms of gross domestic product). That is what the peace-in is all about.
The January 27 antiwar rallies and speeches in Washington D.C. and across the country put many anti-war activists back in motion. For the near future, the local politics of peace will be key to building a national movement to end the Iraq war and prevent a U.S. attack on Iran. Recently, a chapter of Peace in the Precincts announced the launch of antiwar protests in the offices of Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican who represents Gold River, an eastern Sacramento suburb. We need two, three, many peace-ins!
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: [email protected]