Heroes, Sung and Unsung

By David Swanson

Last night in a bar in Austin, Texas, we held a family reunion for the peace movement. The occasion was the presentation of the Camp Casey Peace Awards. Much of the evening was devoted to the incredibly powerful anti-war music of Carolyn Wonderland, Emma’s Revolution , Hank Woji , and Jesse Dyen, each of whom had a crowd on their feet and moving as well as sitting and feeling like crying. Carolyn sang Willie Nelson’s “What Happened to Peace on Earth” beautifully with Willie and his wife Annie sitting ten feet away and cheering.

The Nelsons were given an award for all the work they’ve done to promote peace and all the help they’ve given to Camp Casey. Cindy Sheehan presented the award. Mimi Kennedy presented an award to the amazing Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink. Jim Hightower presented an award to Ann Wright and Veterans for Peace, without whom I don’t think we’d have a peace movement or a Camp Casey. Ann Wright presented an award to the Crawford Peace House and its leaders, who brought peace activism to Crawford before Camp Casey and made Camp Casey work when it arrived. And Cindy gave an award to the young creator of online peace videos Ava Lowery. It would be hard to imagine a more deserving bunch.

But appreciation was handed out also to many of the people in the room, which was filled with a mix of Texans and peace activists from around the country. I was especially pleased to meet for the first time a member of the Texas state legislature, Lon Burnam. Burnam was already a hero of mine for having introduced into the legislature this year a resolution to petition the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Bush and Cheney. Between this year and last, nine states have seen such resolutions introduced, two of which have come close to passing. The chief sponsors of those nine bills are worthy of the name hero, and really ought to be the focus of public movements to draft them to run next year for Congress. In each case, they have already served their nation better and upheld the oath taken by members of Congress better than any member of their states’ delegations. They are:
Lon Burnam TX
Gerald Ortiz y Pino NM
Eric Oemig WA
Paul Koretz CA
Daryl Pillsbury VT
Karen Yarbrough IL
Jamilah Nasheed MO
Frank Boyle WI
Keith Ellison MN

But we need to put an asterisk beside Ellison and attach a warning to this idea. Ellison campaigned on impeachment and was elected to Congress last year, and has since then done nothing about it. It seems to take about a week for freshmen Congress Members to shift their loyalties, lose their perspective, and become like all the other Congress Members. So, let’s try to draft the other eight people named above, but let’s make certain they commit to remaining who they are now once they are in Washington.

There was someone else in the bar last night who was recognized from the stage for her contributions to the peace movement. It was also her birthday. I am so indebted to her, as are we all, and she has received so little recognition, that I want to mention her here as well, as a hero of those working for peace, justice, and impeachment. Barbara Cummings in August of 2005 heard what Cindy had done in Crawford and got in a car in San Diego with a friend and headed straight for Bush’s estate. Once she got there, Barbara did what I have seen her do at every peace event around the country for the past year and a half: she helped make the place work. She ran the parking operation and the shuttle service, as 12,000 people piled into a town smaller than the US embassy in Baghdad. Barbara helped people and she got people to help each other. The stories she has, from Camp Casey I alone, would make an incredible book if she ever writes them down or tape-records them and gives me the tape. They include comforting people in tears who’ve just turned against a war they believed was just. And they include persuading newly arrived people in business suits to dig through truckloads of trash that have been baking in the Texas heat.

Since that summer, at any peace march, rally, or encampment around the country and even overseas, if I ever want to know the latest plans or developments, all I ever have to do is ask Barbara. If I’m at home working on the AfterDowningStreet website and I fail to post a big piece of news or I post one that’s a hoax and shouldn’t be posted, Barbara phones me within 5 minutes. If I want to find out who said what on TV that morning, I can just ask Barbara. Barbara Cummings is one of the unsung heroes of the current movement for peace, and if every American did a small fraction of what she does every day, we would actually have peace by the end of this month.

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