We Made Page One… Of the Blowfish

In one of the three copies I was handed today, I noticed that the Iraq War event made the cover of one of my three favorite campus newspapers, the Blowfish. In the spirit of crappy reporting, I don’t have the headline with me. However, it pointed out that, despite our best efforts, we did not stop the war in Iraq.

I do not mean to sound bitter, and I do think it was a funny and useful article the Blowfish wrote. Useful in that it forces us (or, forced me, anyway) to continue thinking about the meaning of protests and demonstrative activism. What, exactly, were we trying to accomplish last week?

I don’t think we intended to stop the war, and I don’t think the Blowfish seriously believes this. But we must take their joking point seriously: what, then, was the point of the signs, the chants, the speeches and the march?

I heard talk of consciousness, of reminding people there is still a war going on. I find it unlikely that we surprised many people with our opinion, per se, (College Students in Northeast Oppose War! could have been another Blowfish headline), but maybe we surprised people by the energy we were able to muster around the issue, half a decade (one quarter of my life!!) later. Again though, I think it’s quite clear that this alone would be grossly insufficient. If we’re going to provoke people and accuse them of sitting on “the apathy couch,” we must be quite considerate of not winding up on an analogous soapbox of self-righteous complacency.

And, I should add, I do not think we are. The letters we send to influential swing senators, and the money we raise for VoteVets and the goodwill offerings for U.S. soldiers, are the actions that I hope speak louder than the (rhyming) words of chants. But from even before the event, many people realized the most important use of the demonstration was for momentum: a protest and a march are fun and note-worthy, but they are not enough, and we must live up to our own ideals.

Reflections on the Protest Today, and on Idealism in General

I’m not here to report on the protest today. The pictures, word-of-mouth, and, no doubt, other posts will offer you a clue as to what went on. It was a remarkably well-organized event and encouragingly well-attended. Still, some of my confusions about the anti-war movement were made clearer.

An open-floor discussion is perhaps not a fair way to evaluate an event, as there was no central message meant to be relayed. However, some central themes came through and the enthusiastic results of the crowd suggest to me none of them were anathema.

In order, then.

The Protestant Chaplain made some curious, if telling remarks. He said it is the responsibility of those who “broke it”, Iraq, “not to fix it,…but to end it.” He also said he would end the peace vigil he co-runs “when U.S. led hostilities end”. So which is it – a peace vigil, or a U.S. led hostilities vigil? Is his duty to save the lives of American soldiers who volunteered to serve their country, or to save the lives of innocent Iraqis? Was there a solidarity vigil when Saddam was butchering civilians unopposed? Perhaps I misunderstood the chaplain’s intentions or remarks on this point. I am not going to win many people over by beginning with criticizing a well-respected and well-meaning religious figure, but I thought these comments provided a good introductory framework.

In a sgeringly surreal moment, David Emer quoted with approval comments made by Dick Cheney from 1994. A version of these comments, or what I believe David was referring to, can be seen below: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YENbElb5-xY&feature=related[/youtube]The former Secretary of Defense and future Vice President did indeed make some eerily prescient about the sgering difficulties an invasion and occupation of Iraq would entail. He concludes by saying the main question was “if we went on to Baghdad, how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment is not very many, and I think we got it right.” Now perhaps Saddam himself was not worth many dead Americans, but this is a bit callous when one considers the hundreds of thousands of lives Saddam was free to take by our decision to leave him in power.

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