I went to the big protest in NYC back before this war was launched against Iraq. And then, like pretty much almost everyone else, I went back to my standard everyday life, grumbled a bit, but kept to the sidelines as Bush went ahead anyway. Since then I’ve wondered why the impulse to protest is so weak in this country. Sure, sure, protests don’t accomplish the same thing that they did 30 years ago — or so the conventional wisdom goes. But then, when was the last time that you saw multiple million-person protests in a single year on a single issue? One protest will almost never accomplish anything, for sure. The difference, I think, between the protests against the Vietnam War and this Iraq War is that those who think the wars suck rotten eggs got off their duffs again and again and again during Vietnam. This time, we got off our duffs… and then went and licked our wounds for three years and counting.
Janet pointed me to this Will Bunch piece, asking “The madness of King George: Are you going to take this sitting down?” He’s talking about Bush’s apparent “new course” in Iraq to increase US troop levels, despite the abundant evidence that the clear majority of Americans, as well as so very many analysts and Iraq Study Group authors, strongly desire just the opposite. Bunch wants to know: when exactly will the American people get sufficiently fed up with being treated like a bunch of dumpkoff peons by their Great and Exhalted Leader and go to the streets? He’s not suggesting violent or otherwise illegal protests, just some measley legal marches in the street, some singing of kumbaya, some waving of banners, all the sorts of things that get okayed ahead of time by the powers that be. But SOMETHING that sends more of a message than posting snarky comments to blogs.
Because protest DO happen sometimes, you know. And they get things done, you know. The Ukranians didn’t just accept it when their presidential elections were stolen in 2004, they staged a peaceful (though forceful) revolution. It worked. When students and workers in France didn’t like the new labor law in 2005, they didn’t hide their feelings from the government–and the government conceded to the will of the people. This year in Taiwan, high-level corruption wasn’t met with an attitude of “what do you expect, all politicians are corrupt,” it was met with mass street protests and the eventual indictment of the president’s wife (the president is constitutionally protected from indictment as long as he remains in office, but can be indicted as soon as he steps down). Also this year, Hungarians did not take kindly to their prime minister’s accidental revelation that he and his party had based their successful election on lies.
And so on. Okay, I admit, I’m not prepared to take up the torch and organize a month-long street protest in Washington DC (or anywhere else, for that matter) but I’d sure like to see it happen, and I’ll be happy to bring muffins and coffee to keep the protesters’ spirits up. No more stinkin’ wars, immediate caps and reductions of carbon emissions, and universal healthcare now–I know, there’re lots of other issues too, but I’m willing to compromise and start small.