the activists: war, peace, and politics in the streets
Fabio recently showed me a movie co-produced and co-written by his Party in the Street co-author, Michael T. Heaney. It’s called The Activists: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets. It’s worth watching, and showing to students (even if I hope it eventually gets a bit cheaper!).
Here’s the blurb at the movie’s website:
The Activists: War, Peace, and Politics in the Streets brings to life the stories of ordinary people who tried to stop and end the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At best, activists had limited influence over the conduct of military policy after 9/11. Yet, their experiences in the antiwar movement helped them to learn about speaking out in the face of injustice. They inspired others to do the same during the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements. Indeed, democracy requires more than just one vote every four years. It requires continued pressure by citizens on their government. This is what democracy looks like!
I really enjoyed the film, even if it sometimes felt a bit heavy handed. It’s impossible not to feel inspired by the activists we meet and the passion they bring to peace and justice (I was very involved in anti-war activism as an undergrad at Loyola New Orleans). There are wonderful small scenes, including a moment with Geoff Millard, from Iraq Veterans Against the War. We learn about his childhood and the role the military served in his life. He’s sent to Iraq even though he thinks it’s wrong. We see him look out over the water, facing away from us. He wears a hoodie with “you are not alone” printed on the back; his voice laments, “I can’t help but to think about-I could have gone to jail. I could have gone to Canada. I could have resisted but I didn’t. I knew it was wrong and I violated my own conscience.” We go from that to faceless activists in black and white prison apparel wearing massive papier mache heads of senior Bush administration officials (including W). They’re linked together into a chain gang. And then from that to one of many brief interviews with Professor Heaney. Pathos, unsubtle messaging, and then keen political insight, all within three minutes. If that’s not the activist experience, what is?
Yet the really key argument here is about how the anti-war activism, even if didn’t stop a war, helped make the American left even more visible and, well, active. Those huge Bernie rallies didn’t come out of nowhere.