Sunday, March 18, 2007

An Observation on the March 17, 2007 Demonstrations

I attended the LA demonstration which a friend of mine estimated from a high post at 10,000. (The DC demonstration drew tens of thousands, the awful weather causing buses and flights to be cancelled for many out-of-towners). In the LA action, what struck me were the following:

1) the plethora of wonderful, colorful and eloquent self-made signs and outfits. I've attended scores of demonstrations in my life and I've never seen as much variety of hand-made signage and costuming as yesterday. I believe this reflects how people are broadly feeling a need to individually express their sentiments at this terrible war, the prospect of another one looming daily, and the monstrous acts being committed by this government. This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the restiveness and uneasiness among the people broadly. It shows the burning impatience that is out there and the need people are increasingly feeling to find some way to express this. We need to tap into this much more broadly and get those people who aren't yet politically active involved, including in ways that don't involve the big step for many of actually going to a demonstration/march. The "We Are Not Buying It" campaign is one of these ways and the National Days of T-Shirts for Impeachment (April 26-28) that I've proposed is another way to manifest these extremely broad, majority sentiments throughout the society and thereby change the tenor overall politically. (This week's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher ends with Maher putting the case against this government very directly - surprisingly so for such a public forum and public persona in these censorious times)!

2) the broad range of ages and demographics. There were a lot of young people, more in relative proportion than I think I've seen in probably the four years plus that the anti-Iraq war demonstrations have been underway, complementing the middle aged and older folks. This reflects a growing and extremely important trend. Probably could have been more high school aged youth than what there were to see, but still this is a good trend. One of the folks I spoke to, a middle-aged man, told me that he recalled more faculty in the 1960s speaking out against the Vietnam War than he sees happening now, and he wondered what was holding this back from happening. He noted that intellectuals and students are extremely important in social movements. Was the work of people like David Horowitz having a chilling effect? What is on the minds of academics? I said I thought that Horowitz et al was a factor, that many liberal faculty are still too much in the thrall of the Democratic Party (too much talk for my taste about who is going to be the next president), and that he was absolutely right that intellectuals and students needed to step up in a much bigger way. (On the other hand, I pointed out that I'd heard that faculty were extremely important in making the big demonstration a few weeks ago at UCSB happen by endorsing it, an indicator of the potential out there).

3) among those I spoke to and also reflected in what people wore and/or had on their signs and banners: anger at, and more resoluteness in the face of, the Democratic Party's refusal to end the war and initiate impeachment. In the past there have been many more who sought hope in the Democratic Party and yesterday I spoke to nobody who thought this. The questions were more in the realm of "why aren't they [the Democrats] doing anything?" "what's it really going to take to end this regime?" and "how are we going to get more people to become politically active?" Spoke to a guy from Brazil who said he left Brazil because of political repression and came to the land of the free and found that it was here too! And then there was the social worker who has decided to cut back to part-time because she feels that the full-time work she was doing to prepare for retirement might not be the best use of her time. She doesn't think it's at all a certainty she'll even have a retirement with what is going on in the world. She plans to spend her time devoted to becoming politically active and bringing about the changes that need so badly to happen.

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