I'm going to reprint an article I read awhile ago in The Stranger (www.thestranger.com) which I think makes an important statement about anti-war movements. There are many valid reasons to question the bombings on afghanistan, however the rally style protests which I am used to seeing/attending are not at all appropriate. Usually such rallies are ran by groups which basically rely on rallies to promote their groups. I usually use the rallies as a way to show solidarity with a cause, because the presentation of the cause is just ridiculous. But now such a difficult position needs presentation more than solidarity, and the rallies don't help at all. IMHO.
On the other hand, the girls I've met through rallies are usually my favs. ;)
by Bradley Steinbacher
Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! The Left's Tired Tactics Have Got to Go!
I've never been very good at judging crowds. Shown a mass of people, I could as easily guess 1,000 as 500. But if I were to take a stab at the number of people marching through the streets of downtown Seattle on Saturday, September 29, eight days before the U.S. started bombing Afghanistan, I would place it at around 600. They took up an entire city block, packed tightly between the curbs, marching and chanting and waving their signs as police escorts cleared away traffic in the standard march/rally/demonstration protocol we've seen so many times since WTO.
I stumbled across the demonstration at Westlake Center (though I assume it originated at Seattle Central Community College) and decided to follow it along its path, mainly out of interest in gauging the public's reaction. After all, an anti-war demonstration is a shaky proposition at best in the hyper-patriotic weeks since the September 11 terrorist attacks, and as the marchers made their way through downtown I overheard a number of shoppers tsk-tsk, some shaking their heads and grumbling "They should be ashamed of themselves," or "Fucking loonies."
Undeterred (or unhearing), the crowd trudged through downtown, first west, then south down Second Avenue, then west again, then north along the waterfront. Whenever a corner was reached--another block conquered!--the crowd cheered and clapped wildly, and as the giddy mass arrived at its destination, one of the piers where a stage and P.A. had been set up, an excited energy floated through the air. Everyone piled onto the pier for the second wave of the demonstration: rhetoric. And as I stood there in the sun listening, I couldn't help but think that the entire event--the march, the chants, the signs and speeches--was a colossal (and at times laughable) waste of energy.
One thing I found especially interesting during WTO was the number of peaceful demonstrators rightfully condemning the vandals and "anarchists" who were smashing windows and looting. But many of the peaceful protesters were doing just as much harm to their cause as those hidden behind black ski masks. As I stood amid the crowd during the WTO riots, it occurred to me that when average Americans turned on the TV after work that evening, they would see not only reports of windows smashed and corporate logos defaced, but footage of people ("stupid hippies," as they were sure to be called) dancing in the streets, many dressed in ridiculous costumes, some manipulating large puppets. They saw naked people, people hiding their identities, and thousands of white kids with ratty hemp clothes and equally ratty dreads.
In capitalist U.S. 2001, there are three ways to make change: (1) Money + Politics (which is very expensive--see the Christian Coalition circa late-'80s/early-'90s); (2) Voting (rather suspect, given the events of Florida 2000); and (3) Making Our Voices Heard (MOVH). The best hope for the Left (and by Left I don't mean Clinton Democrats) is MOVH--changing the minds of people across the country, letting Joe Blow in Omaha know what's going on, just what our country is up to at home and overseas. And the best way to convince Mr. Blow is not to scare the shit out of him and/or force him to write you off as a commie pinko loon, but rather to detail your opinion in a clear, concise manner, to explain what you believe the U.S. is doing wrong, and, perhaps most importantly, to offer alternatives and propose solutions. To MOVH, the Left has to stop acting like assholes in public and get a little media savvy.
September 11 put liberals in a strange position. On the one hand, U.S. foreign policy had something to do with the terrorist attacks. But on the other hand, our country and our fellow citizens were viciously attacked. We were attacked by religious fanatics working for a religious fanatic harbored by other religious fanatics who oppress women, blow up statues, and execute homosexuals. So what's a liberal to do? Trotting out the exact same chants, posters, and public speakers last seen at Gulf War protests certainly isn't the best idea. Operation Enduring Freedom (ugh) is not Operation Desert Storm (eesh)--it's something completely different, more WWII than Vietnam. Yet when George W. Bush called for war in the days after the September 11 attacks, and Congress agreed, and 90 percent of the American people agreed, the Left responded with... what? A series of Vietnam-protest-era marches larded with Gulf-War-era rhetoric and WTO-vintage puppets. The only thing missing from the demonstration I watched were the sea turtles. Is it any wonder that no one is paying attention?
Despite the tragedy, 9/11 actually presents a golden opportunity for the Left to bring the many evil blunders of U.S. foreign policy to light. We have been attacked, and many Americans want to know why, and some are hungry for answers that go deeper than "America Strikes Back" hype.
Unfortunately, the Left seems to have no idea how to get the info across, other than lame marches/demonstrations filled with the same tired chants, i.e., "What do we want?...," "1, 2, 3, 4...," "Hey, hey! Ho, ho...." (Note to marchers: If you're going to chant "No War!" you'd better offer some sort of alternative, especially given our current predicament.) The Left gathers the usual suspects together, sets them up with some protest signs (many of which are actually left over from the Gulf War and, presumably, were dusted off for 2001), and sends them downtown, where they will chant away an afternoon, making themselves feel good and having absolutely no impact on anyone who isn't already in complete agreement. They march, they rally, they cheer and chant and applaud, and the only people listening are themselves.
The Left in 2001 needs a media upgrade in the worst way. It needs to figure out a way to communicate its message that doesn't cause a vast majority of Americans to roll their eyes. Change in this country comes about through numbers, and continually alienating the bulk of the nation with old, tired tactics isn't going to change anything. After all, if the Left's anti-war, anti-globalization marches and demonstrations make me cringe, and I already agree with the protesters' demands, for the most part, what hope do they have of swaying the opinions of Americans living in the "red states"?
The bombs have just started to fall on Afghanistan, and George W. Bush hinted on Monday that bombs may soon be falling on other states. (Attention, Baghdad.) So there are sure to be many more peace protests in the coming weeks and months. It would nice if the Left could stage a march or two that was just as serious as the crisis we face--no naked boobs with messages scrawled across them, please; no puppets, no chants, no "bomb them with love" Hallmark moments. It would also be nice if the Left used any media exposure garnered from the marches to make a statement beyond "No War," because at this point, that's not an option.