Outside Looking In

Early on, Barack Obama issued the challenge to the American public to make him do it. If we believe in something, anything, we must convince him of our righteousness.

On Monday, about 500 of us gathered at the White House during Obama’s Rose Garden meeting with doctors who are supportive of his health care plan. Through the hedges, we could see movement and I’m certain he and his invitees could hear us as we bullhorned, “Healthcare not warfare.”

We protestors from many organizations, including World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, and Witness Against Torture, arrived before the garden party began and as we walked the sidewalk and stated our demands to ‘make him do it,’ police officers told us we could not remain on the sidewalk. “Move to the street,” we were directed.

When I stayed where I was, an officer said, “You’ll have to leave the sidewalk.’ I asked him if my nephew died in Iraq for this—a loss of my freedom to stand on a public sidewalk. He was pleasant but adamant and said, ‘Get on the sidewalk.”

I had already turned to move towards the street but reeled around and said, “You just told me I could remain on the sidewalk.”

He smiled and said, “So, you caught that.” I did indeed. I smiled back and he said, “I wish you could stay on the sidewalk.” With this acknowledgement, I moved a few feet to the street.

My friends Debra Sweet and Elaine Brower of World Can’t Wait have worked tirelessly to end war, to halt the humanitarian disaster we have wreaked on those we invade and occupy. “Stop the torture, stop the war,” they repeated. Elaine, with a black hood over her head and wearing an orange jumpsuit and chains represented a detainee in America’s war of terror. Debra gave an impassioned speech.

Cindy Sheehan arrived to make clear her statement that it doesn’t matter who is president if the same immoral acts of war and devastation continue. If George Bush is a war criminal, so is Barack Obama. She also read the International People’s Declaration of Peace.

Code Pinkers Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright were there, having just returned that morning from Afghanistan where they met with Afghan women who related the suffering that is a result of war.

Two other notable political activists I recognized are the indefatigable Kevin Zeese and David Swanson.

Meanwhile, Gen Stanley McChrystal says 40,000 additional troops are required for success in Afghanistan. And another $130 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq is pushing through a Congress that does not listen to the will of the people. Obama, weighing his options, is strategizing and equivocating. Eight US troops were killed last weekend. Eight more families are changed forever. As we contemplate the rising death toll while Barack Obama consults with those who say “more” and shake their heads in recognition that this war has been mismanaged, those of us in the peace movement will continue to stress that our country’s foreign policy of imperialism is immoral and diminishes each of us as humans. We must demand an end to the barbarism of war that not only ravages our own military and our consciences but countless victims in the countries we destroy.

Obama’s challenge to us to make him do it should inspire us to do just that. Unfortunately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had this to say about the protest:

I think the president has long believed that whether your opinion is on one side of the issue or the other, that this is the—the greatness of our country is that you get to amplify that opinion.

Well, we amplified. And at least 60 protestors were arrested. Seems if we are going to “make” Obama “do it,” we must continue to amplify. And we must amplify louder than the corporations—that personhood receiving the ear and approval of our so-called leadership.

MISSY BEATTIE lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com