On February 28th, the Chinatown Tenants Association hosted a talk by Carolyn Ho, the mother of Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing court-martial for his refusal to be deployed to Iraq. I was honored to be invited to this event by Reverend Norman Fong of Chinese Community Development Center, who is one of my personal heroes. I caught up with Ms. Ho following the powerful speech to talk about building a truly grassroots anti-war movement.
JT: You have chosen to speak out not only in support of your son; but against the war in Iraq. What do you see is the state of the anti-war movement in the United States?
CH: I think that the anti-war movement is obviously now part of the mainstream national agenda. It is not just the agenda of the Left anymore. Early on, it was the Left, and some intellectuals sounding out a warning about what this war is about. Now the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the war; that is what the elections showed us. Of course, some Congress people are now trying to tell us the opposite; that the elections really weren’t a statement on the war!
JT: But that the fact that a majority of Americans are against the war doesn’t exactly translate into a broader anti-war movement.
CH: That is why I’m spending so much time on this, speaking to grassroots community groups, speaking to the media. I am trying to put politicians on notice that they will never be able to predict where dissent might spring up. We’re constantly looking for vulnerabilitiesm where we can apply pressure. The resistance has to be focused, truly grassroots and intense. This kind of thing must be revolutionary in scope.
JT: What do you mean by revolutionary?
CH: So much of the anti-war movement is depressed and demoralized; and that really shouldn’t be happening at a moment like this when there actually is some cause for hope. We stand on corners, we protest, we carry signs. There needs to be more than that, because once elected officials take office they think they can do whatever they please.
JT: You just finished speaking to the Chinatown Tenants Association, a large organization made up of mostly immigrant, working-class Chinese people. Is it possible to really connect the neighborhood struggles with the international ones?
CH: Yes! We have to start in the community. The Asian community here is connected to the Asian communities all over the globe. The people I spoke with are active fighting for the civil rights of their neighbors here; so they are the perfect ones to take that to the next level.
We have to be intergenerational, teaching our young ones that we are in fact part of a global community. People have much more in common with each other than not. If we follow Bush’s path of preemptive war we will be led to a nuclear holocaust and that is not the future I want to see happen.