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.