Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC Protests


"Democracy is not waiting to vote once every four years. Democracy is getting out in the streets," says Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, a 24-year-old member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who refused orders to deploy to Iraq this June and now plans to show up to the conventions with IVAW. "They [the politicians] are not gonna do it by themselves. We're gonna force their hand, because that is the nature of democracy."

Things are going swimmingly in Denver as non-violent protests are flamboyantly disobeying the "Free speech zone" ordinances by walking the streets in massed groups. There was some question before this convention started as to whether there would be much protest, given that the protesters would mostly be favoring the Democratic party (albeit reluctantly.) I've had this conversation 1000 times, about the effectiveness of protesting:

Q:"Protesting? Why waste your time like that?"

A: It's hardly a waste of time if you believe in the cause. Certainly it's more effective than simply lining up every few years to select between 2 inflexible options, offering you a take-it-or-leave-it list of policies (at best- often you don't even know what the policies will be.)

Q: "Yeah but it does more harm than good because people get annoyed by protesters"

A: Spoken like a person who's never seen the magical effect of protests. Not only does it assemble and energize diverse activist groups but it inspires serious conversation, forcing issues out into view. These conversations happen all around you at protests. I overheard this conversation from distant bystanders "If this is an anti-war group, why aren't they just protesting the RNC?" Answered with (from another bystander) "Well the congressional Dems authorized the war and have largelt supported it." The sky didn't split open or anything but there's no way that guy #1 finds out that information otherwise, and that's important. Skip to the end of this post for more "effects" talk.

Q: "Okay but that just makes people cynical about the Democrats, and makes them less likely to win opening the door for Mr. "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Bomb-Bomb Iran""

A: What makes people cynical is you telling them to shut their eyes to reality and trust in "change we can believe in" and then feel betrayed when Obama peddles the same old Clinton-era moderate BS. People know that Obama's policies are better than McCain's, and they know that preventing McCain from taking office is important. Opening their eyes to Obama's actual policies won't change that; if anything it'll shield them from the wave of disappointment and cyncism they'd otherwise experience when they see Obama's real policy toward Iraq (et al.) Make no mistake, Obama's policies are better than McCain's in most every area so how then can the truth hurt?

Q: (sort-of) "Sure so we'll just march in the streets and it'll change nothing as usual then."

A: That's certainly not true, but it's what "they'd" love you to believe. I'm sorry to use such a hoary old cliche as "they" but it gets the point across. Consider the feminist movement and the groundwork laid to change the culture and attitudes around equal rights and sexual harassment. The Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill issue would have been completely ignored had it not been for decades of activism and organizing which had a civilizing effect on the culture overall. Of course the activists don't often get thanked but ah well.

If you've got a cause and live close to Denver or St. Paul Minnesota... get involved.

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