Monday, August 30, 2004

does protesting work?

Hmmm. I've said it before and I'll say it again, and probably here:

Freedom of speech means nothing without the obligation to listen.

It's become rather clear that the most exciting tactic - and possibly the most successful - the GOP now possesses is the ability to ignore. Zones of silence surround the right-wing facilities. Even Bush is only dropping in and out of New York, ears covered, eyes averted. What this distancing shows is not a desire to conduct their activities in peace, or even for the rather shaky concept of protection: what it shows is that the GOP no longer considers themselves stewards of a populist state. Nobody wants to listen. They only want that one percent that allows them to do what they wish, and screw the majority - at least as much as it takes for them to get that one percent on the record.

So what does this mean for protesting? Nonviolent action is often centered on the premise that there is someone listening; it's a kind of hopeful play for the ears of whoever is in charge, with the assumption that that person cares about the (often well-thought out) logic and reactions of those closer to the ground. I'm no longer convinced this person is there; if he ever was, Bush fired him.

At its best protesting can be an excellent way to get the ears of those who have not had a chance to listen. (All this listening crap is going to hurt my Deaf head, but this IS english, and hearing people come up with the terms. Silly buggers.) When I protested cochlear implants at various conventions, there were always that cool minority of people who came across the picket lines and listened to us, took our flyers, listened to our reasons for being anti- whatever activity we were anti-ing. And it was cool. Some of those people changed their minds. Some of them just allowed their minds to open. Regardless, those people went back to their conventions the next day with a little more information about the people they'd never met who they were supposed to represent.

When people like Bush, however, say "Oh, shout all you like, I'm all for free speech. But I'll be over here. Behind this wall, behind the cops, behind my cops, behind these people, and thus too far away from you and your friends to hear anything. Isn't freedom of speech wonderful?" it's a direct insult to democracy. Hell, it's an insult to all Americans. Right now? Half the country doesn't give a shit, because Bush is good at blinding people to the fact that he's stabbing them in the back. But two, three years from now? Four? If he's still President, and we all have dead relatives in Iraq, and we're all poor and jobless... yeah. Then you'll start caring.

Until then, I do.


Hmmm. Morning's frustrated coffee-fueled rage over, I can get to the point of this morning's post:

That we need to find new ways to protest. I think getting together in one big group is very important. But doing it reactively, going to the Republican National Convention for one, just allows us to underline/highlight/emphasize how little our voices matter. And gives them the opportunity to not listen. It doesn't give us the opportunity to be, as much as I hate the word, proactive. Which should be the actual as well as epistemological point of the word action.... It also, I am afraid, gives the government and media time to prepare for ignoring us, thus divorcing us from the other people we want to talk to, the American people. Vietnam's horrors were stopped when the public saw burning children. We can no longer show burning children on the television, on the grounds that reality is too horrifying for America and thus must be kept from it at all costs (although it certainly wasn't kept from children.)

We also need to challenge their legitimacy in preventing or containing our protests. Their concerns about 'safety' et al are too easily ridiculed and ridiculous (would you rather have protestors wandering the streets randomly looking for a place to gather or would you rather have them tell you where they're gonna get together? Protest will happen one way or another... but as August suggests, if security is your concern, having people tell you where they're gonna be is pretty much the way to go.) I'm not as optimistic as August; I believe they waited so long to give "permission" for people to employ our legal right to protest in order to create disorder, not order. What would have happened if Bostonites had asked permission to form a tea party?

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