Why I Am Not Going to the Protest
I am not going to the protest. I am tired of protests: they don’t stop wars. Not protests that are mostly about sign waving and hooking up with friends and strangers and feeling the solidarity and then going back to work or school on Monday. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
Sure it FEELS rebellious, these government-permitted, media-ignored, totally predictable rituals-but come on, going to an anti-war protest hasn’t been rebellious since Abbie Hoffman coughed up a fur ball at one in 1968. And in the context of the war on our civil liberties envisioned by Clinton/Reno and executed by your nemesis George W. Bush, they are very, very happy to have you protest and take your name and number. Or force you into a field, or a waiting pen to be locked away until they decide to let you out.
Personally I am tired of marching alongside people wearing masks and carrying signs about stupid Bush when we and everyone we know put together have not been smart enough to stop him. And the Bush bashing only makes the whole parade, err, protest look juvenile to the rest of the world.
Here is what I propose: let’s stop messing around. No more anti-war. Let’s stop the war. No more protest, unless it is part of some huge thing that doesn’t involve business as usual the next day. How do you stop the war? Shut ‘er down. No more business as usual. The target audience: the Democrats, and the presidential candidates who can’t fall over each other fast enough rattling their little Democrat saberettes. ("Bomb Iran? I can top that, let’s bomb PAKISTAN! Take THAT, cowboy!")
Being anti-war is a fashion statement, a political position, not a movement. I talked to a fellow yesterday who was anti-poison but still used them on HIS lake to fight HIS weeds-weeds outta control because he and his neighbors dump tons of fertilizer on their beach hugging lawns. I personally am anti-junk food but I still eat it, anti-logging but I still use wood products, anti-fossil fuels but my work and fun still depend on them. I am anti-aging but I still age. I am against, rape, animal cruelty, torture, genetically modified food, child abuse but what am I doing to stop it? Well, being against it. In other words, nothing.
"Anti-" is easy-stopping is hard.
And stop it we must. We cannot wait ’til our hand is forced. Morally, it will mean we failed. Already the deaths of ten, or maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqis is on our hands. Yours and mine. Mothers incinerated as they hold their children. Young men who looked like trouble. Shopkeepers standing where Saddam "might" have been. By some accounts two million refugees that we refuse to take in. Every day, more die because we are there. Sure it’s a mess–so was Vietnam and the killing only stopped when we left. (Read the actual history, Mr. Bush, not the pretend history.)
We are not welcome in Iraq by the people we are allegedly liberating. Most people don’t appreciate being killed to be freed and surprise! EIGHTY PERCENT of the citizens of Iraq want us gone. In fact a lot of them are so overjoyed with us "liberating" them to celebrate they are killing as many young Americans as possible. They long for the good old days before we "liberated" them, and coincidentally, their oil.
Why are we not gone? It’s our economy, stupid. Let’s get a grip: the U.S. does not have enough of it’s own oil, or natural gas, and soon coal, and no time soon-maybe never-are we going to be rid of our addiction to fossil fuels until it runs out and our cold, dead hands will at last let loose of the gas pump. Without access to Middle East energy YOU would not be flying to Ohio to see your grandma or to Europe for that meeting. YOU would not be driving your Subaru up the mountainside. And I would probably not be making movies by traipsing around the countryside in van. It’s not about the SUV or Ford F-150 driver-he or she probably uses less fuel in a year than you and I do flying to Hawaii or Paris one time. It’s about all of us, we Americans. WE are not complaining about HDTV’s and ipods and cheap prices on Travelocity or even aware of the irony of liking, no loving a show about a mobster family that kills, maims and extorts its way to wealth.
The grim reality we don’t have enough energy in the U.S. to feed economies and lifestyles going. Losing control of the region-and an Iraq ruled by Iran means the oil (and perhaps even more importantly the natural gas) is controlled by people who don’t kowtow to us-and might not cough up the oil & gas. The Chinese have contracts; we have ARMIES! Feel safer?
So why don’t we have A STOP THE WAR plan? That might require pain and sacrifice, something we’re told we don’t have to engage in as American’s–not even to save the planet. So for Christ’s sake if changing light bulbs and buying a hybrid can save the entire planet, I mean what do we have to do to save little puny country like Iraq? Squint? Give up the lime in limon? Buy some green light bulbs?
Now make no mistake, I like many of all of you reading, felt like I was giving it my all from time to time. The big protest in February of 2003 was part of that-millions turned out, we all felt heartened. Thought is was scarcely reported by the media, friends of mine blockaded a military deployment for a few hours while I and others served as a support team. I was part of making an anti-war movie you may have heard of-"Fahrenheit 9/11." But I repeat, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting the same result, and hundreds of protests and anti-war films and four years later we have NOT stopped, nor slowed the war at all. Maybe we have helped galvanize public opinion. If so good. Maybe we thought supporting the democrats in ’06 would do it. It didn’t.
No longer can I live with myself by saying, well, I did my part. I don’t care whether the polls are for or against us. I don’t care whether or not the political process is working-it isn’t. It is immoral and a crime against humanity for us to continue to occupy Iraq and kill civilians. (Anywhere for that matter. May I digress for a moment? When did it become okay to bomb civilians because Saddam or a terrorist or a bad guy MIGHT be present among them? That’s a sin and those responsible should be held accountable. Would you be wiling to sacrifice YOUR family because someone wanted to take out a nearby bad guy? When did we lose our moral compass so badly that we don’t even need to pretend to be against killing civilians, or torture, or occupying a nation that wants us the hell out?)
I can no longer give myself a pass because MY deal, my family, my work, my ease, is more important. It’s not. Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, even if the comfortable are ourselves. We should be ashamed that we are leaving the heavy lifting the Cindy Sheehan, to me the lone voice who has failed to be cowed into submission or giving up among us.
Let’s come together not as activist or organizers but as citizens to make a plan. People associated with peace and justice groups could attend as individuals. Why? Because, 1) our "grassroots" groups, as good of people and as great a service as they provide, are really NOT grassroots groups, they are individuals self-appointed, and 2) organizations tend to merely want more of what they are good at, the usual protests, T-shirts and ad hoc causes glommed on to this one.
Only one cause here: stop the war. Only citizens allowed. Speaking of citizens, where is Al Gore? Or Bill Clinton? Jimmy Carter, we need you! Where are the heavy hitters? Time to weigh in, past time. Time like Martin Luther King or Gandhi to lead the walk-out, lead the shut-down, get out in front.
What would stopping the war look like? How about democrats: start to bring the troops home by thus such day, or we’re going to have NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL DAY. Picked a day, draw a line in the sand for a national strike, or slow down, or work stoppage, or walk-out, maybe a day when college students are getting bored, maybe in striking distance of the holiday shopping binge. But it should here is the message: "Democrats, end the war now. Bring the troops home now. Business will NOT go on as usual until you do this." No shopping. No going to work. No movies released. No concerts. No TV shows produced. No schools open-the students have walked out. No buying of cars, plane tickets, gasoline. Hundreds of people driving the speed limit every rush hour-every major city will be shut down. Campus walkouts and non-violent strikes; maybe occupations. I don’t know how to do this, but I know we must do it, or something like. Do you have a better idea?
Their blood is in our name. Yours and mine. They want us gone. The killing does not have a chance of ending until we’re gone. We must admit we were wrong, we are wrong, apologize, ask what we can do to make amends. Sending young men and women to kill or be killed, young men and women with bombs, guns, napalm, artillery is the way to breed tens of thousands of Osamas, not the way to peace.
Let’s stop the war. Let’s pick a day and come together to plan this, how to stop, not oppose the war. You know the constitution gave us liberties not merely to be happy, but to rise up when our leaders have taken the power from the people. The president doesn’t have the power to wage war: only the people do. The second amendment wasn’t meant to safeguard your right to horde sub-machine guns in your basement, it was meant to reserve the right to rebel, to fight for what is right, for the people, in the event their government has gotten out of control.
History will not judge George W. Bush. It will judge us. He did not send the troops there; we did. Only one congresswoman and NO senators voted against this war. We can bring them home, but first the democrats must fear the wrath of the people. And right now they fear us far us far too little.
If the planning happens around the protest, then I will be there. If the protest is not an event, but is a reality-changing, world-changing first step in a real plan to stop the war; if everyone promises to not get back on the bus, on the plane, or in their cars having wasted a bunch of fossil fuel on a parade, I will be there.
And if we do have a slow-down, shut-down, buy nothing, consume nothing, use no fuels thing going for a time maybe we can have a parade on our bikes, get to know our families and neighbors, and begin the real work of stopping global warming and global wars and terrorism the only real way possible: by ending our role as the world’s chief glutton and bullies.
JEFF GIBBS is a filmmaker from Flint, Michigan. He was a producer on "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" and is currently working on an environmental documentary and one on radical activism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.