Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why OWS Should Lead the "No Iran War!" Resistance

A national call went out just a week ago for a National Day of Action to resist U.S. war against Iran. Will the Occupy movement be the leading voice saying "No Iran War!" ?

NDAA = Guantanamo for EVERYONE!
World Can't Wait

Some people might argue that the problem of preventing the newest U.S. war is not squarely within the area of concern of Occupy. I would argue that, in fact, there is no one better-positioned to take up this resistance than the biggest group of people in the U.S. who have gotten first-hand experience of U.S. government threats and repression.

It is not a coincidence that legislation that aimed at both Iran and at the Occupy movement was signed into law on New Year's Eve. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides sanctions on Iran, and it also has sweeping provisions for indefinite detention of U.S. citizens that amount to "Guantanamo for EVERYONE!" and are clearly aimed at the Occupy movement (among others).

The Occupy movement is not the first group within the U.S. to find itself in the federal government's cross-hairs -- but it's quite clearly the one that's there right now. It takes courage to stand up to that, and that's why every day more and more people are signing on to the call to support OWS and help it resist its suppression.

It also takes courage to talk sense when a large part of the U.S. population has been convinced that another country is full of "bad" people, and is "asking for" a confrontation with the United States. This situation needs mass courage of the kind that few but OWS today possess.

IRAN: surrounded by U.S. military bases

OWS is a movement that is about ideas and debate and analysis. There is no problem as urgently in need of ideas and debate and analysis in American life today, as the threatened war with Iran. Consider some of the issues I raised in early December in my #NoIranWar blog post:

(1) "WMD?" Haven't we see this movie before?
(2) Where does the real threat of nuclear weapons lie?
(3) What is the role of oil in this conflict?
(4) What is the role of the U.S. military enterprise in the Mideast in this conflict?
(5) How do we evaluate the role of Israel in this conflict?
(6) Are we proceeding from a deeply flawed understanding of the Iranian people?
(7) What role does history play in this conflict?

OWS should lead the "No Iran War!" resistance because OWS is prepared to tackle the range of ideas that the current threat of war against Iran poses.

To me, the most important reason that the Occupy movement must take a leadership role in pushing back against the current demonization of Iran is that the idea of accepting people -- even those who look different from oneself -- is so central to the entire Occupy movement.

Over the course of many teach-ins that I have attended at Occupy Chicago, and many conversations with people there, I have come to recognize the power of the idea that we are NOT isolated knots of people who have to be at odds with each other. We have a common humanity, and that's what allows us to have a movement together.

A glimpse of the real Iran . . .
from Persepolis:The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

At Occupy Chicago, we've talked about the way the prison industrial complex lures people into thinking that there is an isolated group of people called "prisoners" who are "different" ... we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count. We've talked about how people get recruited into the military, and the rest of the society writes them off ("we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count . . . "). We've talked about people on every part of the sexual orientation and gender spectrum -- how many times are people written off on these grounds ("we will never be able to understand each other, and so I should just think and behave as if they don't count . . . ")? Pretty soon, I and other people at these events started to realize that people aren't really that different from each other; or, at least, 99% of them aren't, anyway . . . .

If the Occupy movement has taught me one thing, it is that every time I hear some person or group of people being described as "different," I should stop and think. And think again.

Would it really be possible for U.S. leaders to be talking about war with Iran if people here stopped to think about how different people there aren't?

Related posts

In my post about the Occupy movement, I pointed out that standing against U.S. aggression toward Iran was a position that not many people wanted to take, and that luckily a movement had arisen consisting of people who were willing to go beyond the conventional wisdom and were not afraid to take unpopular positions. For me, it boiled down to the "courage to think different." Today, when people in Gaza are once again being slaughtered by an Israeli state that operates with the full backing and material support of the U.S. government, who has the "courage to think different"?
(See Should OWS lead the overthrow of the U.S. support of Israeli crimes? )

A large number of people are marked for exclusion and deprivation -- and worse -- because they have characteristics that are susceptible to the whole apparatus of power:  they are easily recognizable as  NOT "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" . . . under the gaze of surveillance this condition is recorded and propagated . . . for perpetual recording and processing within the data centers of power . . . accompanied by intermittent acts of physical and cultural injury -- random, senseless -- to reinforce their unshakeable status. 

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color)

Especially important is the fact that the Occupy movement understands the systemic nature of the problems our country is mired in. And they have a determination to go to the root of those systemic problems. That's essential to the antiwar movement. We don't just have a war problem ... we have a war economy problem!

(See #OWS + #ANTIWAR on #AfghanistanTuesday )

As the Obama administration prepares in the days ahead to pivot from its focus on Syria to something truly startling -- talking to Iran! -- it is important that the American public devotes some time and energy to learning and thinking about Iran, the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship, and what the U.S.-Iran relationship means in the larger context of the effort to reduce the risk of war and violence in the world.

(See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative)

I was at a national gathering of fellow Lutherans and we were saying that we need to forthrightly ask ourselves: "Who's being left on the margins? Isn't that exactly who we should be working to be in relationship with?" A big part of this is creating a safe space for people who are most often marginalized to be present and be heard.  As I thought about this, I harked back to the high tide of Occupy Chicago, when there were teach-ins every day - veterans explaining "How Veterans Are Part of the 99%"; formerly incarcerated people explaining "How Prisoners Are Part of the 99%"; transgender people explaining "How Transgender People Are Part of the 99%".

(See Get Outside Your Comfort Zone and Have A Conversation Today (Welcome to the Ministry))