Thursday, January 3, 2008

Creating a Scene That Can Be Seen By All

As I wrote in my book, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney: "We face a situation today in which political institutions, public officials, the two major parties, and the mainstream and right wing media are more out of touch and at odds with the public than at any other time in this country’s history."

The Achilles heel of the movement against Bush and Cheney has been the fact that while we have the majority on our side - a majority has been telling pollsters since summer of 2005 that they want Bush and Cheney gone - the leading institutions of the society treat impeachment as verboten - as if it were the crazy uncle in the attic. Thus, in the absence of the legitimation of impeachment by these leading institutions, the mass sentiment for impeachment remains largely diffuse and unexpressed except to pollsters, in widespread, private grumblings, and in sporadic demonstrations and in essays by the most committed activists.

There have been a handful of journalists and a number of prominent citizens who've been advocating for impeachment, but irrespective of their prominence, they remain voices muted by the rest of the leading institutions who are dead set against it. A classic instance of this was when Seymour Hersh published his explosive piece in the New Yorker's March 7, 2007 issue. This is part of what I wrote about it previously in my blog:

"Seymour Hersh, arguably the most important investigative reporter we have (we'd want to include Greg Palast in the same breath) - they don't come more credible and don't have a better batting average than Hersh - publishes an explosive piece in The New Yorker, arguably the best magazine in the country according to many observers. The article, "The Redirection," shows, among other things, that the Bush White House has been carrying out black OPS inside Iran since at least summer 2004, is funding Sunni terrorist groups (remember that it's Sunnis who are inflicting the greatest damage against US troops in Iraq), many of the same crew who brought us Iran-Contra have been carrying out these dirty deeds completely bypassing Congress, the CIA and the military, running this through the Vice President's Office... and the rest of the mass media can hardly stifle their yawns!

"What should happen and hasn't, as [Tom] Engelhardt points out, is that this should be headline news around the country, Congress should be screaming bloody murder, Op-Eds should be demanding impeachment and mass resignations, and issuing subpoenas and demanding testimony from the White House right, left, center, up, down and every other dimension.

"What does this tell us? Hersh's credentials and prestige puts him at the New Yorker, the New Yorker to its credit, runs stories like this, and yet, it isn't enough!"

The leading investigative journalist publishes a piece in the leading magazine, and it raises nary a ripple throughout the rest of the media world and among politicians. The most credible journalist and the best, most highly respected magazine aren't enough to turn the tide.

We face an enormously difficult uphill climb to hold these White House criminals to account and to reverse the direction of our government and society. Many within the movement continue to hope that traditional protests - mass marches and rallies - will do the trick. But a way must be found under this particular set of circumstances to pierce the paralyzing atmosphere. The usual tools aren't up to the task. A way does exist: if we can create a scene that is seen by all then we can overcome to a significant extent, perhaps to a decisive extent, the suffocating dark cloud that has been asphyxiating us.

The key to this strategy lies in the fact that millions - a majority in fact - do in fact dislike or despise this White House and are disgusted with Congress' inability and unwillingness to hold these war criminals and torturers accountable. The solution lies in finding a way to uncork that sentiment in a meaningful way. Activists are accustomed to mobilizing people in marches and rallies (and sometimes civil resistance or civil disobedience). The public in general is accustomed to following the news through the traditional news outlets and taking their cues from the pronouncements of public officials. Those among the public who do go beyond the usual voting ritual are used to writing letters, placing phone calls, and/or attending a demonstration or two or three.

What is called for in these times is something radically different. While marches, rallies and civil resistance are extremely important and must happen in a much bigger way, the numbers of people who must declare themselves politically must be in the millions and the magnitude of the resistance must be much greater than perhaps ever in our history. The incipient police state where everyone is being spied upon by Big Brother, where anyone can be picked up, held indefinitely, transported to a black site through rendition and tortured, where wars are launched against countries that have not attacked us and do not threaten us, is not a fever-racked nightmare that might come. It is here right now. It is the USA in January 2008. This is America. This is where we are. The direction and trajectory of all of this is monstrous. It is going to take something unprecedented to stop this and reverse it.

The atmosphere of the whole society must be altered in a way that by-passes the blockade put up by the mass media and the two major political parties to the mass sentiment against Bush and Cheney. As David Addington - Dick Cheney's chief of staff and one of the key architects of the Bush regime's torture policy - is quoted as saying in Jack Goldsmith's new book The Terror Presidency: "We're going to push and push and push until some larger force stops us."

That larger force can be none other than the American people acting as THE PEOPLE, as an independent political force, not beholden to or voluntarily subordinating itself to any political candidate or party.

If everywhere you look - in rural, suburban and urban places - there are signs of protest against the Bush regime, if you see not only people wearing orange jumpsuits and carrying out other forms of political/street theatre both in the streets literally and indoors in theatres, but a multitude of other expressions of resistance, people engaging in civil resistance, people blocking the doors to politicians' offices demanding that they move for impeachment, people shutting down and/or blockading the war industry, people going to work and going everywhere in their lives wearing orange ribbons daily, crowds at sporting events and athletes in the games wearing orange, students breaking out of schools in a blaze of orange, cars and store windows, apartment balconies and office buildings festooned in orange banners, rallies, marches, trees and posts donning orange, people walking their dogs with orange ribbons on their pets - then we will be demonstrating in an unmistakable, dramatic fashion the fact that there are people in the millions all over the land who are standing up against these moral monsters, demanding a different path and a bright future, committing themselves to that task on the everyday level.

Some people who have heard of the Declare It Now: Wear Orange Daily campaign think that wearing orange isn't enough, that wearing orange couldn't possibly do what needs to be done. This is like saying while in a crowded stadium at night with no lights on that if I light a candle or turn on a flashlight it won't do anything to break the darkness that envelopes us. But if many, many of the individuals in that crowd do the same thing, a magical thing happens.

Let us further imagine in this metaphor that the show producers have a spotlight aimed upon part of the stage where the entertainment is going on. The rest of the stage is in darkness. Some people in the crowd discover that in the darkened section of the stage and backstage terrible events are occurring - theft, robbery, assassinations, torture, murders - and that people are being systematically picked up from the darkened crowd and subjected to these horrors, almost all of whom do not return. A few do return and try to tell the others in the audience what is going on. But their ability to convey this news to others is limited by the fact that they are swallowed in the darkened stadium and don't have access to the microphones on the stage.

Occasionally - very occasionally - the spotlight veers away from the featured attraction and for a very brief moment illuminates the monstrous, unseen events. This startles the crowd for a time. But then the dirty deeds are obscured again and most of the crowd, while feeling uneasy in the pits of their stomachs, go back to watching the main show. Those who are less swayed by the producers' antics and/or closer to the stage and can hear some of the muffled screams of those being tortured and murdered, try to alert the rest of the crowd. But because the klieg lights aren't in their hands, their ability to turn the crowd onto the truth is restricted. Some people try to get the attention of the people on the stage and plead with them to turn up the stadium lights, to stop the show, and to announce to the whole crowd what is going on. The people on the stage, however, turn a deaf ear to this because they are getting paid to stay quiet and they want to be one of the spotlighted star entertainers themselves. After all, the life in the spotlight is a good one with lots of perks.

Some other people in the crowd decide that they will try to get a lot of people to light a candle or turn on their flashlights. Some people within this group are not sure that they can convince enough people to do this. After all, most of the crowd did get a glimpse of the crimes going on, yet reverted back to swaying to the music from the lightened part of the stage. Some in the crowd also say back to these activists on the ground - what good will it do if I light a candle? I'm just one person and the darkness is so thick around us. What about all these other people who aren't lighting a candle? I'll do it when the rest of them do it. Until then, I'd rather stay in the dark and enjoy the show. The activists persist, even in the face of some of their own doubts, realizing that if enough people do this then the darkened stage that is concealing these horrors will be revealed to more people who in turn will start to spread the word themselves, turning on their flashlights. They are driven too by the knowledge that if they don't do something the horrors will spread.

That's what DIN and 333 are about. They are part of creating an unprecedented situation on the grassroots level and on the level of everyday life of people taking personal responsibility to fight the forces of the night and usher in a different condition altogether. Be not afraid dear friends. We have much to do. But we can win this fight.

1 comment:

George Washington said...

This is such a good essay, that I wrote one of my own based on yours: