My girlfriend Jessica and I finalized our move from Brooklyn to Albany, New York last Sunday. We were forced to move and follow the money, as they say. While we filled our UHAUL full of odds and ends, gritty white hipsters from South Williamsburg were convening to protest the neocons arrival to the Big Apple. I was upset that I coulnd’t join them. I wanted nothing more then to drop the boxes I was carrying and raise my fist in dissent against an administration that has an appetite for the inept.
As I watched these protesters amass, however, I noticed something peculiar. Most fellow Williamsburgers on the street seemed unconcerned that George W. Bush was using their city to host the Republican National Convention. They didn’t give a shit that Bush was about to exploit the tragedy of September 11 to promote his re-election campaign. They were not angered by the whole charade. Not in the least.
At first I was perplexed. “Why aren’t these people, poor black and Latino minorities, on the front-lines raging against Bush and his band of thugs? They certainly have ample reason.” I thought. “In fact they have more reasons then these twenty-something’s, myself included, who will forever have the gift of white skin as a saving social grace. Why the overt political apathy?”
But then it hit me. The truth is these folks don’t see a point in protesting only one sect of the ruling elite while ignoring the other — their problems are systemic, and yes, bipartisan in origin. Bush is only a symbolic figure head of a corrupt corporatized state. They don’t need C. Wright Mills to point it out. They witness it daily.
They know it was Bill Clinton who signed welfare reform. Not Bush. They know it was Clinton who cut Pell-Grants and raped the federal education funds, making it harder for these people to dig their way out of entrenched poverty. It is Democrat John Kerry who wants to put more cops on the streets to crack some minority heads — which will inevitably send more non-violent individuals from poor neighborhoods like South Williamsburg into the prison industrial system. These poor Americans have few, if any, allies in Washington. They’re votes are typically ignored if even counted, and the presidential aspirants like Kerry rarely speak to their needs — even if Kerry’s Veep Edwards smiles his way through his “Two-America’s” speech. These folks aren’t biting.
Iraq isn’t a major issue either, and why would it be? They aren’t surprised America has launched an imperial war. Many of my former neighbors are from Puerto Rico, where they know first hand the wrath of American stewardship. Iraq is just another chapter in a long history book of American aggression.
They know that regardless of who wins in November, their struggles will surely continue: Finding adequate work. Food for their hungry children. Health care that doesn’t put them in the poor house. A solid education that leads to opportunities for their precious kids. And the list goes on.
I heard one older man sitting on an over turned bucket say to his friend as Jessica and I passed with our oversized mattress in hand, “I bet these protesters wouldn’t be doing this if that Kerry were in town.” He was right of course. It was a keen observation of our political reality, aka the ABB (Anybody But Bush) epidemic.
The majority of protesters now assembled in NYC would not have thought of taking to the streets of Boston to rail the Democrats for their acceptance of “everything-Bush” just one month ago. Not only is it now cool to be anti-W, which is the major ABB draw, it is also intellectually appealing. At least for the selective-minded spectator. Most New York City ABBer’s believe it is their duty to protest the RNC. Bless ’em. I’d be there if I could, and I am sure many marching through the streets of Mid-Town know the Democrats are to blame for much of what has transpired. But after seeing another segment of America that has ample reason to hate Bush — sit back and laugh at the hipster upheaval in Williamsburg that day — reality has painted a slightly different picture of the RNC.
The problems plaguing America, and Najaf for that matter, are not the neocon’s alone. Bush has acted on policies laid out by Bill Clinton and the New Democrats in the 1990s. The face painted protesters that passed my girlfriend and I as we packed our belongings in the back of our rented truck may not understand this. But the guy on the overturned bucket, and the other Brooklynites that seemed unconcerned with the Republican takeover of NYC, continue to see through the perpetual lies. They know 100,000 protesters in the streets is a good thing. They just wish such dissent was not partisan in nature. If it were, I’m sure they’d be arm in arm with their white neighbors.
Joshua Frank, a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming book, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.