In an article in Left Turn magazine, Clare Bayard has beautifully reframed the issues for the peace / anti-war movement. Demilitarization is about challenging the infrastructure and ideology that make wars more likely to occur.
Demilitarization as Rehumanization
The antiwar movement never died. The movement has shifted to the work of long-term, community-based organizing to mount a comprehensive challenge to US militarism. This work is growing inside grassroots movements led by veterans, immigrants, queers, and low-income communities of color. Everywhere domestic militarization burns to the bone, people are fighting for a different future. The mass street marches of 2003 sought to preemptively raise the political cost of the Iraq war. We always knew that beyond those marches we would have to confront the real human cost if the wars moved ahead.
For those who have retreated into depression or distraction, her message is as hopeful as it is challenging:
People are organizing on every level, from federal legislation and military policy to survival programs that start with individuals and generate networks of grassroots resources and programs. Current work with the potential to drastically impact US militarism includes war economy and economic conversion campaigns, migrant justice, and GI resistance organizing.
There are many crucial questions about alternatives to military intervention, or the roles of armed struggle in peoples’ movements for self-determination. We take inspiration from people around the world confronting US militarism on their own territory, particularly in the anti-occupation and anti military base movements, currently finding their strongest expressions in North Africa, West Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.
GI resistance, counter recruitment, women in the military resisting sexual violence are some examples she discusses. She also highlights the need for healing the wounds of war, violence and militarism. A unique example of the cross-constituency, cross issue organizing involved in demilitarization work took place in the San Francisco bay area between the Ohlone Nation and Veterans for Peace:
Members of the Ohlone Nation—the Bay Area’s original inhabitants, displaced to Southern California—journeyed to San Francisco to hold a joint healing ceremony with the local Veterans For Peace Chapter on Veterans’ Day. The ceremony recognized a young person lost to suicide after returning from combat, and honored these two communities, beginning an explicit long-term partnership on healing the wounds of war.
She concludes that demilitarization must also involve healing and decolonizing ourselves from the violent and oppressive influence of militarism:
Demilitarization means untangling layers, from which institutions shape our society and address our needs, and decolonizing our minds, bodies, and organizing practices. Demilitarization practices are healing and wholeness strategies for our communities and cultures. Affirming everyone’s humanity and centering the importance of healing capsizes the logic of militarism. While we campaign to withdraw troops, defund the military, involve the public in reparations, and make racist fear and warmongering unacceptable, we must also be practicing individual and community behaviors that support the values we seek to implement as a society.
“Healing justice is being used as a framework that seeks to lift up resiliency and wellness practices as a transformative response to generational violence and trauma in our communities.” This footnote to principles developed at last summer’s US Social Forum, by Cara Page of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, explains the power of aligning different antimilitarist threads. We have no choice but to address the violence and trauma carried in so many of our bodies. We must reclaim traditions of wellness that use not the individual but relationships as the fundamental unit. This aligns us with values of community, right relation to the environment, and organizing as a process of building relationships that we set in motion to effect change. Demilitarization means hope for the future.