Tactical Mothers

Ideas and Issues International

New Orleans: In the “framing” issues and campaigns one thing we have all learned from George Lakoff and others is that a critical element is the “messenger.”  Having Cindy Sheehan deliver the message that the war should be over for the sake of her son’s sacrifice is very powerful.

 An organizer reminded me that mothers have been essential messengers in Latin America, particularly in Buenos Aires, but in other countries as well.  They became moral voices for the disappeared and the victims of political violence and repression.  Thinking about it though, one realizes that these mothers were also very effective because there was no way that anyone individual or government could make a counterclaim.  There was no equally powerful messenger or moral voice who could say, “No, my child was found” or “No, your children have not disappeared.” 

 Tactically, this is a more difficult situation.  And, predictably, we now see a torrent of other parents, including Sheehan’s own husband and the father of the dead and soldier, who are now coming forward in big ways and small to argue that the sacrifices of their children were not in vain, and that Sheehan does not in fact speak for them. 

 Were we organizing Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, we would know that tactically in order to step this up to the next level, one would have to now move scores of mothers, hundreds of families to Crawford to make the point that the war is over and it is time to come home.  Sheehan can not be a symbol, unless there is an echo to her voice. If there is not, then this will be a summer’s illusion, drowned out by the grieving of thousands of parents not ready to let go of their own sacred ground.

 This is hard stuff.  Organizers should not get confused about how these tactics work, just because there is a momentary media flurry in the heat and boredom of central Texas.