A new political movement calling for playful, passionate engagement shows its true colors
Pink snow-women parade in front of the White House. Homeless men bring blankets, hats, and gloves to pink-clad women on a vigil in Lafayette Park. Singers, drummers, Catholic nuns, Buddhist monks, children, people of all ages and colors gather in a spontaneous and ever-changing theater full of laughter and a lot of hot pink. This is the face of Code Pink.
On its most prosaic level, Code Pink (Women for Peace) is an ongoing fast and vigil in front of the White House. It was initiated November 17 by a diverse group of women of all ages connected to UnReasonable Women for the Earth, an activist group founded by Nina Simons, co-founder of the environmental group Bioneers, and Diane Wilson, a fourth-generation shrimp captain from Texas (see Utne, Nov./Dec. 2002). The vigil will culminate on March 8, International Women?s Day, with a march, a concert, and other activities in Washington, D.C. Code Pink does not compete with other peace activities. Its vivid, unmistakable color theme?hot pink, on buttons, clothing, hats, posters, and signs?is intended to raise the visibility of the movement as a whole.
Code Pink is a serious response to the threats of war, of economic collapse, of the loss of civil liberties, of environmental disaster. Yet it?s also a call for a playfulness, spontaneity, and a sense of respect for what we seek to change that sets it apart from old-paradigm protest. Code Pink aims to connect people rather than driving them apart. It resonates with the knowledge that time is too short and the risks too dire for anything but love.
I became involved in Code Pink (the name borrowed from the code nurses use in hospitals to alert staff that a baby has been abducted) last May during a conversation with Diane Wilson on a rock in the middle of a stream at the first UnReasonable Women gathering in Ojai, California. I was asking Diane about her life and how she had become so clear about and committed to her convictions when, much to my own surprise, I heard myself telling her that I was going to do a fast with her.
What had prompted me to join her so quickly, I wondered. And what do I really care about? What can I do to protect what is precious to me? So when the plan was conceived for a fast and vigil in front of the White House, I leapt at the chance because it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone and to start living my convictions more fully.
Since then, I have seen many glimpses of the potential of this movement. Just as Diane?s willingness to take a stand galvanized me to examine my own life, I have now watched hundreds of women (and men) respond to the power of Code Pink. From the woman who saw my button, stopped me in our local food co-op, and said her life mission is to bring women and girls of color to the table around issues of peace, to the Minnesota group that started with an e-mail to 10 people and days later had mushroomed to more than 100, there is an immediate and palpable affinity and ownership. And everyone who has dipped into this Code Pink phenomenon has had similar experiences?such is its magic. The color has a lot to do with it?it is almost impossible not to see and respond to a splash of pink?but there is also a deep and unmet hunger for peace, justice, and environmental sanity in this country.
Code Pink activities have been covered in The Washington Post and Time, on CBS, C-SPAN, CNN, FOX, and Voice of America, though none of these mainstream media outlets has actually spoken its name. Even White House political chief Karl Rove was heard to say as he passed a clutch of pink women in Washington, D.C., ?You pink ladies are everywhere?didn?t I see you in Salt Lake City last week?? Yes, and in Shreveport, Louisiana, and in San Francisco and New York and rippling rapidly into lots of other places. Code Pink is an invitation, a benevolent contagion, the resistance becoming visible to itself. And it depends on you.
When I?or you?wear a Code Pink button, we are telegraphing that we are willing to be visible. We are communicating our desire to talk about and act on what really matters to us. And we are looking for compatriots.
If you start by wearing a button (and, frankly, I?ve never been one to wear buttons before), you will find yourself thinking and talking about what is in your heart. It will become easier for you?and all the people you touch?to find ways to act on your convictions. Imagine a rising tide of pink: Code Pink?stamped money and mail, Code Pink pamphlets and flyers, Code Pink armbands and other regalia sparking conversations on the street, at work, in coffee shops, everywhere. Imagine that we begin to recognize each other, to inspire each other, and to give each other courage. Imagine what could happen if enough of us declare Code Pink.
To get involved with Code Pink, go to codepink.utne.com.