As an activist, I frequently find myself coming in contact with the gypsies of the Left, those public speakers traveling from city to city presenting talks and workshops.  Organizations that I work with often host the events that these wanderers are brought into to embellish.  I find myself fascinated, not by what they say, but by how they say it.

Passing through the Chicago area three years ago were Stacy Bannerman, Cindy Sheehan and speakers from MFSO and Gold Star families, including friend Juan Torres.  I was working with AFSC and other organizations to help facilitate the rallies that these itinerants were leading.  I made it my job to make folks comfortable.  I brought folks coffee.  I scrounged lunches.  I gave people rides.

Stacy and I talked as I drove her to a rally in the far west suburbs.  She described some difficulties of what she does.  I watched.  I listened.

Fear is the filter I’ve wrestled with most of my life.  Discovering other ways to see/feel the world has taken time.  Talking with Stacy, Cindy and other casualties of the war and watching/listening to how they grapple with creating the change they seek, I observe a different alchemy at work.

Transforming grief seems a mission of the anti-war movement and the specific task of those whose husbands and sons have been killed or who have had their lives detoured or destroyed.  Listening to Stacy Bannerman and the other wandering souls, I am struck by how they seek to convert grief to anger, grief to action, grief to fear and grief to joy.  They seek any way to move their listeners to a different space.  They want to compel their listeners to feel empowered and to act.  They want their listeners to be moved.  The speakers want their listeners to feel inspired by the grief they still are wretched by, and they want their listeners to make decisions to make the world a different place.

It’s not the words they use but how they say them.  It’s not the issue but the path of havoc that the issue leaves behind.

The Left does not encourage them to work through their grief and become aware of the hidden ties that come with loss.  Instead, we use these people to motivate ourselves to action.  We use them to be the generals in this war.

The alchemy of peace requires the dark art of grief.  Experiencing loss, we can feel how we are all the same.  Perhaps these wanderers use us to grieve for them.  For them, this is not a fair exchange.


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