Armchair Freedom Fighting | Letters | Chicago Reader

Armchair Freedom Fighting 

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To the editors:

Michael Walsh's bent diatribe against the peace movement (Letters 9/20) can't go unanswered. In the guise of a sharp-eyed attack on the movement, he gives us the same old right-wing bait-and-switch: the peace movement equals communism. That makes Dr. King a red, and anyone who opposes Pentagon power is un-American. Once again the same old stereotypes, dressed up 90s-style as neoconservative iconoclasm. But perhaps sensing the hollowness of his argument, Mr. Walsh forces it into truly goofy distortion. The peace movement has never blamed the U.S. government for stealing food from Bangladesh, as he claims, or for making Pol Pot go crazy. Like J. Edgar Hoover, Mr. Walsh is attacking a demon of his own creation. To condemn the American peace movement for focusing on American abuses instead of Soviet ones is silly, like saying "Why fight against illness when we all die anyway?" We protest our government's abuses because we are responsible for them and because we can make a difference. Mr. Walsh is one of those staunch armchair freedom fighters who thinks passivity toward the Pentagon is more "American" than practicing democracy; hence his blind equation of Peace with Marxism.

I've never been a movement activist but I've been going to peace demonstrations since I was old enough to take a bus. I've been a scrawny marcher for almost three decades, and of course I've been called a commie, a coward, a stooge, and a hopeless idealist by people who haven't got the vaguest idea what my opinions are. There can be a particularly acute rage against peaceniks by people like Mr. Walsh that is truly odd. Not to glorify or victimize pacifism, but isn't it strange that Gandhi, King, and John Lennon of all people are the ones who get assassinated? I can't pretend to explain this, but it's interesting that Mr. Walsh attacks specifically the "credibility" of a movement that is largely based on a hard-to-define faith. Of course faith is "incredible"; it's supposed to be.

I suspect the problem with organizing the peace movement is that it's fundamentally an expression of conscience and it's against power. It doesn't support mass manipulations and demonizing oversimplifications. It prefers words to fists and peace marches to tanks. It is essentially antimonolithic and against leaders. People go to demonstrations for many reasons: to stand for peace, but also to hear the music, to look at hopeful faces, or to fly kites. It's basically the opposite of the army. How do you organize that?

The anticommunist revolutions of the past several years are inspiring and full of promise as well as danger to peace-loving people everywhere. Whether these revolutions justify worldwide nuclear buildup, the U.S. armaments industry, and Reaganite social programs is another question entirely. From his recliner chair, Mr. Walsh would like to take credit for these revolutions because he voted Republican, doesn't attend demonstrations, and scorns pacifists. How impressive, how brave, and how credible!

Thomas Simpson

E. Madison Park


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