If granny hasn't been making cookies and knitting sweaters for you lately, it's because she might be one of the anti-war grandmothers on the streets protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In New York City, just about everywhere you look there's a gaggle of women of a certain age holding banners, shouting slogans, doing demonstrations and singing protest songs. We are, respectively, the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and Grandmothers Against the War. Sometimes we join forces and sometimes we act independently. But, we all have the same goal -- bring all our suffering troops home ....NOW!
You might like to know some of the things we are up to. The Granny Peace Brigade, which organized after 18 grandmothers were arrested and jailed when they tried to enlist at the Times Square recruiting center in 2005 has enough going on to make one's head swirl. For instance, they've repeatedly gone to schools on Parent's Night to do counter-recruitment, persuading parents and teachers to help the kids opt out of being harrassed by the avid recruiters who haunt their schools; they've had four teach-ins concerning the obscene prevalence of over 1,000 American military bases in foreign countries, and they regularly conduct "Phone-a-Thons," going to well-populated public places and offering cell phones gratis to passersby to call their elected representatives to complain about issues related to the wars. They've done parades across the Brooklyn Bridge; knit-ins to make "stump socks" for amputee vets; original play productions; a trek from New York to Washington DC with stops at about 10 cities along the way speechifying and performing; two trips to Germany to give speeches and join rallies and, once, the Endless War Memorial at the scene of their arrest in Times Square, at which for six days from dawn 'til dusk they organized 300 people to read non-stop the names of dead military personnel and civilians in Iraq. If you'd like to learn more about them and maybe participate in their activities, go to grannypeacebrigade.com.
The Raging Grannies have another kind of shtick. Founded in Canada in 1986-87, they mushroomed into other countries including the U.S. where they now have many chapters. They dress up like caricatures of what's thought of as traditional grandmas -- hats festooned with flowers, shawls and aprons. They sing the most outrageous songs, taking familiar ones and writing new lyrics expressing their Progressive views -- for instance, "There's No Business Like Show Business," which the RG's transformed into "There's No Bizness Like War Bizness." Here's a little sample of the revised lyrics:
"There's no bizness like war bizness
the best bizness we know
Never mind the homeless and the hungry
Never mind the people unemployed
Nowhere can you get that special feeling
Than seeing cities that we've destroyed"
Raging Grannies show up to perform all over the place -- at rallies, campaigns, festivals, you name it. The New York City chapter is very active. Check them out on YouTube.
Finally, Grandmothers Against the War (my group) holds what is very likely the biggest and most famous anti-war vigil in New York City. For six and a half years, we have stood on Fifth Avenue in front of Rockefeller Center every Wednesday for an hour. We began on a freezing January day with just two of us and now have morphed into a substantial presence of at least 15 people. We are joined by members of the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and Veterans for Peace. We are not in the least bit parochial, as not everyone joining us is actually a grandmother; some, obviously, are men and some are young. Heck, we'll take just about anybody as long as they are sincerely objecting to the occupations in question. In fact, if you're reading this and live in the Big Apple, please join us on a Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets.
The above description is only part of the story. The grannies do much more than I've enumerated, too much to detail here. Despite our hip replacements, our groaning knees, our gouts, our high blood pressure, and all the other ailments older people are subject to, we are a non-stop force to challenge in every way possible our government's truly misguided foreign policy.
Now, if we could only stir up the young people to become anti-war activists, maybe we could finally end these horrors. Come on, kids. You did it for the Vietnam war. You can do it again. We want you to join us to end the insanity and take on the struggle when we no longer can. We won't be here forever, you know!