by Jim Preston
I've been going to more and more anti-war/anti-torture activities and congressional hearings here in DC over the last few years, and I have been constantly on the lookout for a group that was more interested in legitimate creative action than in endless meetings. I wanted to be sure that any group that I got involved in was solidly based in the principles of peace, honest dialog, and respect for human dignity. I have previously worked with a very small group of friends on some fairly edgy torture simulation/demonstrations that were helpful in providing imagery to go along with the news reports of other protests, but I wanted to work with a slightly larger group of creative people, so I always kept my eyes open to see if I could find them. I have also worked with some bloggers and with mainstream liberal groups, but I have found that some of these groups, although they would like to wear the mantle of the “intellectual leadership” of the progressive movement, usually only offer paper-thin analysis of most issues, and are somehow unwilling to really step out strongly in opposition to the wars. You can be pretty damn sure I won't be supporting any group or candidate that is willing to let the war drag on because it will weaken the Republican Party!!! (I wish it wasn't true, but there are people like that out there. I feel sorry for them.)
Eventually I noticed, over time, that there was one group that was doing exactly the things that I wanted to be doing; Showing Up, Being Creative, and basing their arguments on an appeal to Peace, Dignity, and Understanding. This group was Code Pink – Women for Peace. How could a 48-year-old long-haired soccer dad fit in with a women's peace group? I didn't know, but I had to find out, so I went out to the thrift store, bought a few lovely pink items from the women's XXL rack and drove down to Capitol Hill.
Since the first day I walked into the Code Pink house a few weeks ago, I have been constantly amazed by the energy, creativity, passion and patience that these wonderful women bring to this effort. From Liz's boundless enthusiasm to Desiree's steady patience to Medea's indomitable persistence to Gael's sunny super-competence to Lori's steely resolve, to Sonia and Rae and Midge and Melissa and Joan and Ann and Lydia and everyone else, it is a gift to be able to watch them work, and an honor to assist them.
I'll just quickly describe one day with Code Pink, since I have been getting a little long-winded. On Thursday morning, on my way down to the Code Pink house, I heard that Prime Minister Tony Blair was going to be meeting with George Bush at the White House that day as part of his Going-Away Tour. We had to be there. Most of the Code Pink crew were going to do the congressional visits thing, and Desiree was organizing most of that work, but there was a small team that wanted to try something different, so we jumped in the car and headed for the White House. I was rolling with Col. Ann Wright, Lori, and Lydia. At the White House, Ann used a bullhorn to make sure that the views of peace activists were in the air during the “pats-on-the-back-for-the-war” press conference with Bush and Blair, and Blair acknowledged us during the press conference. After that, we went over to the World Bank and stood out on the sidewalk and sang “Hey, Hey, Resign” to Paul Wolfowitz while he was inside negotiating the terms of his resignation. He announced his resignation later that day. Our next stop was the Justice Department, where we were asking the Attorney General to resign. I dropped the ladies off and parked down on the mall in time to watch Hilary Clinton give a little speech to a large labor group. I was in the front row with a large contingent of Code Pink ladies. Some of them had been on their feet all day and were happy to get a ride back to the house, so we did that and then I went back to the Justice Department. Ann, :Lydia, and Lori were just wrapping up their activities and thinking that they had a 17-block hike before Miller Time when I pulled up alongside them. It didn't take them long to jump in and in about 10 minutes we were enjoying a glass of white wine back at the house, pinching ourselves to see if it was true that we had actually done everything that we thought we had. (We had!!) Later on I heard that Sen. Schumer and others were planning a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Gonzales. Over the course of the week, I participated in approximately 50 such actions, both publicly and inside the halls of congress.
So that's my story and I'm sticking with it. If you want to make peace and make history, and if you want to talk to your congressional representatives instead of shouting at the television, find a Code Pink chapter near you and get started. If there isn't one, then start one, and come to DC to help. The people from out of town have been INCREDIBLE!!! (especially Mona, Merle, Elizabeth, and Diedre) and it has been an honor to help them get around the Hill.
To any men who are interested in helping Code Pink, I will pass on a lesson that my grandmother taught me, which I find quite valuable, even if I do not always obey it. She would say, rather imperiously, as my father or I helped into her chair for dinner, “There is never any excuse for not behaving like a gentleman.” No one ever argued with her about it at all, so I guess it must be true.