I had the pleasure of speaking by phone to Diane Wilson, the woman who started the CodePink hunger strike in Crawford, Texas, earlier today. I wrote this piece for the CodePink site, but thought I'd share it here, as well:
Diane Wilson, commercial fisherwoman, environmentalist, and co-founder of CODEPINK: Women For Peace, launched a hunger strike August 7, 2005 to support Cindy Sheehan's roadside vigil at President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch (or, as she likes to call it, "White House West.") Sheehan has said she won't leave the fire ant infested, 100 degree temperature site until Bush speaks to her about why her son was killed in Iraq. Members of CODEPINK are launching vigilant fasts around the world to express their solidarity.
Wilson knows how powerful hunger strikes can be. In 2002, her hunger strike against DOW chemical resulted in criminal charges in Bhopal. Her longest fast lasted 31 days. "A hunger strike is a very powerful action," she said by phone. "It creates soul-power, as Gandhi says. It creates change." She said even a one day fast of solidarity can solidify intent.
"I believe Cindy is going to be able to talk to Bush," said Wilson, who drove for seven hours to get to Crawford. "The time is coming that he is going to have to relate to the common American people. During Vietnam, most of the protestors were students. Now mothers are protesting, families are protesting. People are showing up on his doorstep saying, 'Hey George, where are those family values that you've been talking about?'"
Wilson noted that at first the authorities didn't understand the seriousness of the situation, but, she laughed, "it's starting to dawn on them." Over 20 Secret Service and law enforcement cars have patrolled the protest site. Steve Hadley, national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff, met with Sheehan, and even sat on the dirt with her, but they continued to feed her the party line. Wilson said Sheehan told her "I may be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid." And she's not leaving until she speaks to Bush, himself. Wilson has promised to stay and fast with her for the entire length of the vigil.
Wilson is the mother of five children, including an autistic son who has been approached by military recruiters. "This isn't just about Cindy's son," she said. "This is for every new death, both US and Iraqi. We're here to say 'No more. No more.'"
Wilson is committed to the transformative power of civil disobedience, on both a personal and cultural level. She has been pleased by the support and amount of press attention the protest has received. "You know?" she said, taking a deep breath. "We are a lot stronger than we think."