FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Protest? Why Write?

by BRUCE JACKSON

 

Most email I get is from readers suggesting links they think might be of interest or people submitting articles or ideas for articles. A few are from morons saying things like “If you don’t like this country go back where you came from!” If I didn’t think it might encourage them to correspond further, I would ask what, exactly, would be accomplished by my moving from Buffalo back to Brooklyn?

A few have told me that if I’m not willing to fight for my country I should stop demeaning patriots who are. I don’t know that I’ve ever demeaned a patriot willing to fight for his country, but I am convinced that standing up for the Bill of Rights and the other principles upon which this country was founded—in a demonstration, a letter or petition to an elected official, or by writing something that might bring light to the apparently benighted—is as patriotic as strapping on a weapon or a bunch of things that blow up and going where they tell you. Anyway, I did that when, as a kid, I spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. I never got shot at, a piece of good fortune for which I remain enormously grateful to this day.

Lately, the political website I edit, Buffalo Report, has published many articles and links to articles on other sites about George Bush’s war in Iraq and John Ashcroft’s war on civil rights. I’ve also run several pieces about Buffalo’s Common Council—mostly on the way the seven white members managed to disempower the six black members and how eight Council members turned an anti-war resolution into a request for funding from the federal government. Council staff members told me that most of the votes against the peace resolution were cast because the councilmembers were afraid of being labeled peaceniks in the next election.

How can you not write about foolishness like that? So I did. And that brought more mail.

I respond to just about everything that comes in except, as I said, people I don’t want ever to hear from again who write things that do not invoke ordinary epistolary politeness.

Ordinarily, I don’t show any of this correspondence to anybody else because everybody who edits or writes for a political publication gets similar mail, only with different nouns.

But then there was this March 22 email from a Buffalo resident who asked what I thought were two very good questions.

He wrote:

Mr. Jackson,

Two things:

1. Everyone in this beautiful country has a voice and a choice. I don’t agree with you most of the time but I respect your point of view. What are you attempting to accomplish with all of these anti-war protests? What is your goal?

2. Since you dislike so many of the “gutless” Common Council members, why don’t you run for a seat?

Thank you very much.

I responded:

Dear Mr. _________:

Two good questions.

The first I can only begin to answer; the second I can answer completely.

I can’t speak for everyone else, but I hope to accomplish two things when I take part in an anti-war protest. One is to indicate to people who might not have given the matter any or much thought that there are many of us who disagree with the policy and path our government has taken and seems likely to continue to take. With the Vietnam war, we who opposed it were at first a minority and in time we became the majority and Nixon left the war—with almost exactly the terms he’d been offered his first day in the White House. As a result of the great public opposition that developed to the Vietnam war, our government has been far more cautious about involving itself in long-term land wars between two parties in distant countries. So the protest had an educational effect.

Equally important is bearing witness, the simple fact of standing with others and saying, “We think this is wrong.” Even if no one listens, it is important to name a wrong when you see it.

As for running for Common Council, I have no temperament for elective politics and I would be bad at it. When someone does something really stupid or immoral or unethical I have a difficult time standing by in silence, and a lot of politics seems to be doing exactly that. I wouldn’t attempt to repair the dents in my car either, but I see nothing wrong in saying that the shop that did it performed well or badly and I feel I’m qualified to say to other people “They do good work” or “They do shoddy work.”

We all do what we can do. I’m a schoolteacher and a writer. So that’s what I do. Furthermore, I think those Common Council jobs should go to young men and women so people who do well in them can have the opportunity to move up to more responsible positions, just as Byron Brown [a councilman who moved up to state senator and who stands a good chance of becoming Buffalo’s first black mayor] recently did. At 66, I’m far too old to play in that arena, but I see no reason I can’t yell from the sidelines, or even coach.

BRUCE JACKSON is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at University of Buffalo. He edits Buffalo Report.

His email address is bjackson@buffalo.edu

Yesterday’s Features

David Lindorff
Peacekeepers at Ground Zero

Diane Christian
Blood Sacrifice

Kathy Kelly
The Morning After Shock and Awe

John Stanton
US Bombs Iran

Wayne Madsen
How to Live with a Rogue Superpower

Anthony Gancarski
Iraq and the Death of the West

David Vest
Earth vs. Bush

Ahmad Faruqui
The Liberation of Iraq in Perspective

Robert Fisk
We Bomb, They Suffer

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax–Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Bruce Jackson’s most recent books are Inside the Wire: Photographs from Texas and Arkansas Prison (University of Texas Press, 2013) and In This Timeless Time Living and Dying on Death Row in America (with Diane Christian, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). He is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail