It was with great surprise that we read Cindy Sheehan’s message about her decision to pull back from her activism in the antiwar movement. Surprise, because we know how deep her commitment is to this struggle, and because we know how much of herself she has poured into this work.
At the same time, we were not surprised that she needed a break. Cindy, like many of us, has been working to end the war in Iraq for many years. But like very few, she put most of the rest of her life on hold as she tirelessly traveled the country, spoke to groups large and small, marched and rallied and lobbied and participated in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, did media interviews and so much more every single day. And we cannot forget for one moment that all of this was done not only as someone opposed to an unjust and immoral war but also as a grieving mother, a parent whose son was senselessly killed in a war that never should have happened, a war that has taken so many Iraqi and U.S. lives. Her clarity and her energy helped to inspire others to activism, people who also lost loved ones in Iraq and much wider circles of people as well.
We are saddened by Cindy’s decision, even though we respect it and know she is doing what is right for her and her family.
But what is most sad is how long this deadly, costly, outrageous war has gone on. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead and their nation is in ruins. More than 3,400 U.S. servicepeople are dead, and tens of thousands will live with debilitating wounds for the rest of their lives. Our national treasury has been robbed of over $400,000,000,000 and now Congress has agreed to give Bush another $96 billion for this war and occupation. What we are most sad and angry about is how stubborn the so-called leadership in Washington is and how hard it is to end this war.
However, we are inspired when we think about Cindy’s work and the journey she has been on. Her ability to turn personal grief into public action for the greater good should serve as a model for others. What Cindy did was a reminder that the actions we take as individuals do make a difference, and that the impact of those actions is amplified when we join with others. Cindy’s individual contribution has been enormous, but she was part of a much larger movement. Without that movement, her presence in Crawford, TX, would not have resonated the way it did. Without that movement, her ongoing activism would not have had its power or ability to reach so many others. And that’s a critically important lesson for us all: We each must find our voice and take the action that’s most appropriate for us as individuals – and inspire others to do so as well — that is how we make the strongest contribution toward the growth of our movement.
Our movement also needs to take this moment to reflect on how we support one another. We have taken on an extremely difficult challenge: We seek to change the policies of the largest, most deadly military force in human history. We are confronting the economic, cultural and social power of the rulers of this nation, and we are demanding profound changes. Doing this work takes a toll on us, and yet we push forward. There are differences among us and there always will be. The goal shouldn’t necessarily be to eradicate those differences but rather to find new, constructive ways to deal with them. We’re going to need every ally and every tool in the toolbox – and probably some others that haven’t been dreamed up yet – to end this war!
We thank Cindy for all that she has done, and wish her well in regaining her strength. And we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the hard work ahead — the work of building and strengthening our movement and the work of ending the war and bringing all the troops home!
We look forward to taking this mandate into our upcoming National Assembly in Chicago. Hundreds of delegates from UFPJ’s member groups around the country will gather June 22-24 to discuss the next stage of our work. Keep an eye out for updates — together we will end this war!
Yours, for peace and justice,
UFPJ National Coordinator