When Sean O’Reilly was out here he brought a bunch of copies of ‘Route Irish’, a feature-length essay film on the campaign(s) against Irish facilitation of the US/UK invasion of Iraq, with a focus on Shannon Airport. Towards the end it begins to name where the so-called ‘peace movement’ went wrong:
I couldn’t help but feel sometimes that the millions that had marched in opposition to the war in Iraq in the weeks before the ‘shock and awe’ bombing of Baghdad had got exactly what they had wanted and then disappeared. The papers in the runup to February 15th seemed for once to help with the plans – happy to help them to blow off some steam – then back to their cheerleading. Part of a generation showed itself on the street everywhere and then went straight back to work, never to reappear. What they had wanted, I surmised, was to create a beautiful, uncomplicated, pleasurable image of themselves as the good ones, the moral ones, the caring ones, the innocent ones. They wanted an image which would either change the world or let them off the hook. An image that would, once and for all, absolve them of further responsibility for a darkening future, an image to wash their hands with.
Were we any different? “Not in my name” was the slogan I remember most from the time. Looking back it sounds for all the world like a get-out clause. It came out of millions of mouths, an each-way bet. I heard it come out of my own mouth, and it did make me feel good at the time. It seemed enough. But how does it compare to, for instance, “over my dead body” or “if you want to get to them you’ll have to come through us”? In retrospect it feels like an abdication of responsibility. Our names were surplus to requirements. (bold emphasis mine)
Ouch. Colour me convicted…seems to me that’s so often the case for protest movements, that in a country where our names are surplus to requirements we resort to tokenism in order to feel better about ourselves. How can we be serious about peace – saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace – if we don’t resist war with our very lives? May the rest of my life be closer to “if you want to get to them you’ll have to come through us” rather than merely “not in my name”…which reminds me of one of Fr. Dan Berrigan SJ’s (many) pearlers:
We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total–but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial.