On Sunday Sarah and I marched with hundreds of thousands of other folks of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations and any other classification you can think of. I’ll be honest, it was a little uncomfortable. I’ve always been against trendy political extremism, and I really worried about having to march with people who I disagree with as much as I disagree with the Bush administration.
At the same time, I felt like I had to be a part of the protest. The supposedly liberal media and conservative hacks generally try to portray people who are against Bush as anti-troops, or anti-American crazies. I felt like I had to be there to show one more face of someone who is decidedly patriotic, against left wing and right wing extremism, and completely uninterested in violence or other ignorant illegal activity. Hell, I’m actually pretty conservative on a lot of issues. I fly my flag proudly, and I think anarchists and the rest are a bunch of middle class suburban kids acting out their angst. But I hate what George Bush and his cronies have done to this country, and I couldn’t let my opportunity to say something pass.
So we marched.
We walked twenty blocks from 14th St. to 34th St. in the stifling heat and humidity rationing our drinks as we slowly meandered with the crowd.
At one point we got caught behind a group of Communists (not surpisingly a group of college age hipsters), and we double timed it to get away from their brain dead chants. It wasn’t the only time we wound up near a group that I would have felt more comfortable lambasting rather than marching with. It bothered me a lot less than I’d expected though, as it was refreshing to see so many people from so many different walks of lifes.
By the time we got to 34th street we were hot, tired and thirsty. Getting to some decent shade lowered the temperature about 20 degrees and put both of us in much better moods.
As we walked across 34th street, we passed groups of pro-Bush counterprotesters. Sarah and I shared a chuckle as we looked at the ridiculous messages on their signs. Have you heard? Thinking that we shouldn’t have arbitrarily decided to invade a sovereign country means that we are fans of dictators like Kim Jong Il. Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t clear about what we feel about the Saudi royal family as they are despotic monarchists and not dictators.
Another counterprotester had what may have been the most unintentionally funny protest sign of the day, the words “Trust Jesus” above images of tanks, machine guns, rockets and fighter jets. I guess he missed the page in the bible about turning the other cheek ;).
Some of the marchers got in the counterprotesters faces and joined them in childish shouting matches. Instead, Sarah and I held hands, stomped our feet and danced to a marching band who played anti-Bush covers of OutKast songs. Most of the marchers had smiles on their faces, and seemed happy to peacefully have their voices heard.
On the walk back down 5th Avenue from 34th to Union Square we laughed and talked about the families, the elderly people women who looked like school teachers, and the relative peacefulness of the demonstration. We laughed at clever slogans, silly costumes and the hustlers who were there to shill
Mardi Gras Freedom beads and water bottles.
We wondered how the media would twist and distort what had happened…and we weren’t far off. Again and again we heard about “thousands” of demonstrators, when we had clear pictures in our minds of the throngs of people who had been involved. There weren’t thousands of people there folks, the Police estimate was ~140,000 and the protest organizers claimed closer to 300,000.
On the way home we stopped by Guitar Center and I finally got a Tremolo Arm that fits my strat. Good day all around!
So, why did I go to the march?
I honestly believe that the neoconservatives who run this country, especially Karl Rove, think that the American people are stupid. After September 11th, we heard hundreds of times about how Saddam somehow had something to do with the war on terror. Then Saddam had something to do with Al-Qaeda-like terrorist organizations. Oh yeah, we had proof that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and refused to disarm. We had to go to war! Then once it became clear that there weren’t any weapons, this became a war about liberation of the Iraqi people. By liberating the Iraqi people we would be ridding the world of a breeding ground of Al-Qaeda like terrorists.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The administration knew full well that saying “Al-Qaeda terrorists”, “that tyrant Saddam Hussein” and “9/11 changed everything” in the same sentence over and over again would lead people to believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks. If the 9/11 Commission’s statement that Saddam had nothing to do with the attack had come out before the war, if we had knowledge that there were no weapons of mass destruction, would we have really started a war against world opinion and with no provocation? Can anyone honestly tell me that they thought the main justification for getting into this war was to liberate the Iraqi people?
I’d love for someone, anyone, to explain to me why Iraq was the main breeding ground for terrorism that we had to tackle. Weren’t the terrorists who attacked our country mainly from Saudi Arabia? Isn’t the leader of Al-Qaeda the scion of a wealthy Saudi family? Don’t the Saudi people deserve liberation from the monarchists who are looting the oil wealth of their country? Of course, the deep economic relationships between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family couldn’t have influenced our foreign policy.
- Why has no one in the administration spoken about the fact that they guaranteed that there were weapons of mass destruction? The weapons that were our primary justification for starting the war aren’t there. Why has this become a non-issue? I’d have a lot more respect for the administration if they would at least say, “Hey, our intelligence was bad. I guess we made a bit of a mistake.”
See my first point. Would the “Death Tax” have been repealed if the media referred to it over and over as the “Millionaire Death Tax”? would the “Clean Air Act” have passed if it were called the “Dump More Pollution in the Air Act”?
Do I support our troops, or do I oppose the war? Both. It’s not an either or proposition.
Folks, they are flim flamming us by framing the words used in public debate. They are smart enough to know that the “liberal” media will gobble up everything they say (remember the questioning reports about the justification for the war before it started…oh yeah, there wasn’t any), and regurgitate it in all of their reporting.
The democrats are in many cases spineless, and I’ll be voting for Kerry with not a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. At the same time, I’m scared of what Bush will do with four more years in power. In four years he’s managed to alienate much of the free world, had us go from having a surplus to having a deficit through tax cuts for the very rich and 129 Billion on a purposeless war, and even gotten tons of Americans to participate in the unmitigated stupidity of “Freedom Fries”.
Freedom fries! When did we slip into the bizarro world where our allies aversion to a war without provocation means that we should hate them? Is that the America we want to see? Last year, I made my first trip to Europe, including a week long stay in France. Everyone I met was nice, and most had nothing but great things to say about the US and NY in particular.
Hating other people for having a different opinion is just plain stupid. News flash! There are tons of hard-working, patriotic, family people who are liberal and against the war in Iraq. There are tons of hard-working, patriotic, family people who are neo-conservatives and in favor of the war. Few of us want to let terrorists attack our country and kill our friends and family. Few of us think that our troops don’t deserve our support regardless of our opinions on the justifications for the war.
The divisive political atmosphere in this country is disheartening, and I blame the administration for leading us off into this wilderness. Not because I disagree with their policies, but because they encourage and support the ugliest parts of the human spirit to push their policies through.
- Being closed to any opinions contrary to your own, including not being interested in reading newspapers, is not resolve or any other value that should be lauded. Real life is all about compromise and the exchange of ideas.
- War on terrorism? How do you have a war on a concept? You can’t. What you can do is turn people’s justifiable fears into irrational willingness to give up their rights. Giving up our civil liberties doesn’t make us safer, it makes us into the kind of society that we’ve always prided ourselves on being different than.
I could go on and on, but their are much smarter and more informed people who you should be reading if you’ve made it this far.
Btw, you’re free to agree or disagree with what I’ve written here. Either way, make sure you vote. I’ve never voted, because I’ve always thought the election was a sham run by two corporate puppet groups. Actually, I still think that. At the same time, I can’t help wondering how much of a better safer world we might have if all of the people who felt like I do had voted in 2000.