one reason at least
Given the recent demonstration in Washington DC I am moved to discuss the effectiveness and motivations to participation in such gatherings. ( A little kick from Rob helped more than a bit as well)
That such gatherings bring out both liberal politicians and Hollywood types is a given, and each have their own reasons for being there. I thought Jane Fonda's noting that her conscience would not permit her to continue to remain away from such due to fear of the inevitable smears was eloquently put and most on target Of course the right wing spin will be immediate and include the usual deprecations of "Hollywood Liberals" and 'Hanoi Jane' will be prominent among the spinning heads. This is the usual tactic of those who cannot or will not acknowledge valid points but seek instead to distort or spin the movement and its intent. But this is supposedly a discussion of why we should have these demonstrations so lets have at it.
The value of demonstrations such as these is not in how close we can hobnob with celebrity ( I am reminded of how close I stood to a Presidential candidate in Chicago once (of course it was Pigasus, a pig in the arms of Jerry Rubin, and of course I was very soon running for my life, but I digress...), not in the ringing speeches, and, sorry to add, not even in the numbers of folks who turn out to express their opinions in protest. I would remind all that millions around the globe, myself included, marched against the initial invasion of Iraq, marched and were ignored of course. If one believes that, should we get a million folks to march around the White House, George and Dick will suddenly and inspirationally realise the error of their ways and rescind all the damage they do, one might be moved to rethink this position, sadly. I could almost do another article on the insulation of political figures from the wishes of the majority in this nation, but Ill leave that for someone else, or maybe for another time.
The true value of such as these is that it politicises many folks, in that more and more will return home and continue the work in their own communities. Do not expect either party to be impressed here. Some supposedly liberal politicos will make the obligatory appearances, will speak about the will of the people being heard and then will return to that evening dinnner meeting with a lobbyist or three. Newspapers and the rest of the media will underplay or overplay the numbers of folks in attendance, will , dependant upon their leanings ( read this their advertisers wishes) portray the gathering as meaningless or use sound bites that distort the messages, photos that play up eccentricities or downplay the serious intent of the average folks who were moved to show their wishes to an unheeding government.
Are demonstrations like these important?
Damned straight they are. Not because they will, in and of themselves persuade congress of anything, but because a few more folks will be energised to activism. Because , as happened to me, attending one such gathering can be a life changing experience, can awaken one to the very real truth that this nation's course is, indeed, in our hands. As an eighteen year old freshman at Michigan State I was invited to attend a Ban the Bomb gathering in Washington DC, in the Spring of 1961. I wish I could say that it was my political dedication that led me to accept such but, in truth, my politics was in its formative stages, limited to a few meetings of the Humanist Society, and it was that the invitation was tendered by older women, one even a lofty senior, that caused my acceptance. Ahh callow youth. To be sure I believed in the cause of peace and the ending of the nuclear threat, but belief is far from action.
We arrived on a Friday and immediately after throwing our sleeping bags down where we would spend the evening we left for the White House. A few signs were proferred and I sort of used mine to hide behind. We few , less than a score of us, began to march in front of our nations capitol and I felt sort of embarrassed, almost naked, a shy kind of guy in my youth. The next day dawned bright and early and I was trying hard to think of something, anything that would get me out of another day of such exposure without censure by the very reason for my attendance ( remember the older women).
Within ten minutes of our marching around in circles people began to arrive, and they kept on coming, until there were literally thousands marching where , one day earlier there were scant few. Due to my having been among the first folks there I was given a blue armband and asked to help direct the march, including to the tomb of the unknown soldier on Sunday. I was also asked to attend the premarch meeting Saturday evening, a seminal experience as I met there some kindred spirits who kindled the fire within me, a fire that I had barely recognised earlier. In attendance were some who were leaders of the then seminal SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, who went on to some notoriety during the Viet Nam protests. My life and its course were forever changed, and by simply attending a single demonstration, and for the wrong damn reason to boot!
I do not suggest that a single attendance to a single demonstration will affect other as this one affected a young teenager so many years ago, but I do not suggest it will not either. I do believe, with all my heart, that attending such marches and protests will show exactly where the power resides, will point out how little responsiveness one gets from politicians, how wide the gulf between Washington and the people of this nation. If it does nothing else it might give perspective to your political expression, give you a reason for continuing to work for your causes when you get back home. It will show you plainly that you are not alone, not by a longshot youre not! We are many , they are few, we cannot help but to triumph if only we make the effort. If you are lucky , as was I, it will introduce you to some folks who can help you understand, help you define the way to action, help you crystalize your political definitions. I met there folks with whom I worked for decades, also folks who died for the cause they embraced.
Heck you might even meet a celebrity, someone like Rob Kall for instance.