The ambiance inside the Garden was as toxic as an Al Qaeda bioterrorist Jihad. In the spotlight, a smugly chortling Bush lip-synched doom to 20,000 beardless Caucasian conventioneers. “This will not happen on my watch” the President pandered from the podium while the Twin Towers crumbled on the big screen behind him, apparently so brain-damaged that he did not remember that it had already happened. The Caucasians zeig heiled appropriately. “Four more years!” they regurgitated.
“Four more wars!” I screamed hoarsely and my colleagues in the press corps backed off to avoid contamination by my alarming lack of journalistic objectivity. An agitated gnome in an elephant’s head hat two rows in front of me who had been haranguing the sky boxes where Al Franken and Michael Moore were quarantined to prevent a public lynching, lunged at me menacingly when I refused to stand up and cheer the bilious Bush.
Shamelessly harping on the nearly 3000 souls toasted on 9/11, the third anniversary of whose incineration would be mourned the very next week, Bushwa pumped up the paranoia as the lynch mob swooned in the aisles. Although the President often mumbles in a patois only his fellow Texans can decipher, his intentions were crystal clear. Filling the hearts and minds of the American electorate with fear and loathing is his most ballistic missile, and the malignant exploitation of national tragedy his hole card in the battle to retain the White House.
I longed for an overripe tomato to toss at this dangerous bozo strutting around down below on the circular stage but the sentries at the Garden gates, perhaps remembering an earlier Eden, had proscribed all round fruit from being carried onto the premises.
The craven spectacle that profaned the hallowed home court of the Knicks and countless classic championship slugfests, was my first stop on a campaign trail I will cover for the next months as I wend my way across the country from right coast to left, reminding my fellow Americans of their true his and herstory as depicted in my latest instant cult classic, “Murdered By Capitalism”, a personal memoir of life and death on the U.S. Left.
Indeed, I had just touched down at LaGuardia en route from tropical Chiapas where I had been celebrating the first anniversary of the Zapatista “caracoles” (political/cultural centers) and the “Juntas de Buen Gobierno” (JBGs or Good Government Commissions) that now administer the five autonomous regions and 29 autonomous municipalities in the highlands and jungle of Mexico’s southernmost state. The anniversary week had been filled with many cumbia dances and basketball tournaments and earnest evaluations of the JBG’s first year of work. They still made a lot of mistakes, the members of the Juntas confessed but 50 rebel schools had been built in the autonomous zones in recent seasons and they were learning each day how to apply the Zapatista ethos of “mandar obedeciendo” or “governing by obeying the will of the people”, a concept so foreign to Bushite brains that the rebels might as well be discoursing in Martian. Above all, the Zapatistas spoke from their hearts, an organ which Bush and his boys, despite their claims of “compassionate conservatism”, have never been able to locate. The contrast between the toxic megalomania at the Garden and the unselfish, heroic resistance of the Indians was as stark as a sudden plunge into Dante’s Inferno.
The Zapatistas, and for that matter the legions of oppressed who take up most of the space on this lonely planet, were in fact keeping close tabs on the blasphemy in the Garden. Much as protestors proclaimed in Chicago 1968 during another party’s perverted presidential convention, the whole world was watching. They know that what happens here in the north from now until November could very well prove to be a life and death decision for them.
This is one reason why the multitudes assembled for the humongous August 29th march on the RNC, the largest protest ever registered at any political convention in U.S. history, mattered so much beyond the nation’s borders even if the corporate media hype-hoppers failed to notice that twice the number of participants estimated in United For Peace & Justice’s permit application had filled Seventh Avenue from gutter to gutter for 20 city blocks, a half million strong and I mean strong!
The phantasmagoric pageant featured every conceivable devil image of the Bush: with horns, with bloody hands, as a shrub, a skunk, a snake, a vampire with a stake through his heart. 500,000 throats spat out his name in venomous unison as we approached the Garden. I high stepped past the arena with my middle finger rigidly upraised in a “Chinga Tu Pinche Madre!” I dedicated to the compas back home in Chiapas.
And after the slog through the mid-Manhattan grit, we retired to the Park from which we had been barred by the Bloomberg gang on the pretext that our marching feet would destroy a lawn previously torn up by corporate rock concerts and highbrow cultural fandangos to which the great unwashed had not been invited. Re-seeding the Great Lawn had cost the city $18 million USD and now Bloomberg, who had the unmitigated chutzpah to compare the peace mob to 9/11 terrorists and then offer those who would wear buttons labeling themselves “peaceful protestors” discounts at such venues as the Museum of Sex, shelled out $103 million in police overtime to keep the peaceniks off the grass, a dim-witted display of cognitive dissonance by the bean-counting, billionaire mayor that bordered on the pathological.
Stopping off first to visit the gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo, we meandered northwards to the Great Lawn where brass bands and guitar players were tootling and strumming, and haki-sack, softball and non-violent training for Tuesday’s mass civil disobedience were being plotted. Paunchy replicas of New York’s Finest prowled the perimeter of this huge, busy, billowing throng, squinting at the defiant partygoers and sniffing out criminal activity. Whose Park? Our Park!
Our Streets too although the cops did not much cotton to our incessant chanting of this declaration of possession. In a disturbing prelude to the coming Republican fracas on Friday evening August 28th, the NYPD set the lawless tone by pepper-spraying, mauling, and hauling off (250 arrests) participants in perhaps the most gargantuan Critical Mass ever staged east of the Mississippi. 5000 cycling protestors peddling rakishly down Second Avenue were set upon by the Men In Blue so brutally that Frank Morales, the pastor at St Mark’s, threw open the church doors to provide sanctuary from the pigshit storm.
All convention week, the oinkers man- and woman-handled the protestors, making nearly 2000 mostly illegal arrests (San Francisco’s record 2400 arrests on the first morning of Bush’s war remains in tact.) In a snit because Bloomberg had denied them a new contract, police ire was mollified by great gobs of overtime and lots of red meat in the form of demonstrators being clubbed into the pavement like so many baby harp seals. Those so detained were then dutifully cuffed behind their backs, dumped off at a crumbling pier house on the Hudson where they were herded into cattle pens and later than sooner transferred to the Tombs before being released back onto the streets, an ordeal which took up to 60 hour in durance vile before a New York State Superior Court Judge found the city in gross violations of the U.S. Constitution, and imposed half million dollar a day fines upon Bloomberg and his cronies until all the arrestees were free at last.
Such institutional sadism was pioneered by former NYPD bozo John Timmony at Bush’s 2000 coronation in Philadelphia and Timmony’s more recent bloodletting at the so-called Summit of the Americas last November in Miami.
But despite wholesale human rights abuse, the New York peace mob was undeterred in telling Bush, Bloomberg, and their accomplices to drop dead. Six times during the four day klavern, Bush’s enemies invaded the convention floor disguised as Republican clones to diss the outgoing president. During the battle of Herald Square on Thursday night, delegates were spat upon, mooned, and pied, and garbage and eggs were tossed at their buses, at least one of which got its tires flattened. How all of this entirely justified acting up would play out in swing states like Missouri had the Kerryites fretting. Many of us, who feel that John Kerry is just Bush’s lesser than evil twin, don’t really give damn. The choice for us and the rest of the world too is not one between these two clowns of war but between war and that elusive state that passes for peace with justice.
For a week, the Fuji blimp and the black helicopters buzzed the scummy sky above the lower east side, garnishing breakfast, lunch, and supper with home-fried fascism. In the graveyard at St. Mark’s, the infernal choppers did their damndest to drown out the reading of the names of the dead in Iraq by women in flowing white gowns, 25 Achmeds for every G.I. John Doe.
Despite the deafening onslaught, the forces of darkness could not staunch the hemorrhage of condemnation for Bush’s death mission.
On the resistance scale, poetry is often our most potent WMD. The Bowery Poetry Club threw open its doors 24 hours a day to accommodate the angst of local bards. I read from my new book at the aptly-named KGB bar on east fourth to a respectable crowd while just blocks away readings at St. Mark’s and Judson Memorial were packed to the gunnels with peace warriors. The rancid arrogance of the Bushwas was countered by Naomi Klein who I caught in an Episcopal Cathedral and the parents of Rachel Corrie and the decapitated Nick Berg who spoke from the altar of a Catholic temple to which 1400-pound tombstones listing the names of those taken in Iraq had been pushed all the way from Boston. The late lay saint, Phil Berrigan’s daughter died in on the boulevards of Manhattan.
But perhaps the most creative protest during convention week was that of the Men In Black Bloc who arrived en masse at Sothby’s, an auction house recently indicted for criminal price-fixing, to crash a sale of Johnny Cash memorabilia exclusively arranged for RNC delegates. And at the Brecht Forum one evening, during a benefit for Lynn Stewart, that feistiest of attorneys now on trial for acting as the blind sheikh’s legal beagle, I was gifted with a sliver of one of her unforgettable apple pies, a morsel which stirred dormant patriotic allegiances. I mean, are we not all as American as Lynn Stewart’s subversive apple pies?
Whatever happens next November 2nd; we need to remember that the U.S. presidential election transcends national boundaries. Everywhere I have walked in the world of late, from the muddy crocodile-laced rivers of the Ecuadorian Amazon to the jungles and mountains of Zapatista autonomous territory in Chiapas to the blasted boulevards of Iraq and the damaged olive groves of Palestine, the world is beseeching us to remove this malignant cancer named George Bush from the body of Mother Earth. It is a mission that we have an unbreakable obligation to fulfill. But replacing Bush with John Kerry would be a great mistake. I like how my camarada Nuri Fernandez in our Mexico City Beat Bush group explains it:” first, we bury Bush and then we will take care of John Kerry.”
She’s right on target. Blowing Bush away is only half the job. Now with surging numbers and reborn momentum infused by the massive resistance to last week’s bullshit in the Garden, John Kerry had best change his tune or get out of the way before our marching feet trample him into the forgetful dust of oblivion.
JOHN ROSS will be on the spot in Mexico City for much of July and August before sallying forth to do maximum mischief at the Republican National Convention in Manhattan from where he will launch the intergalactic tour of his latest instant cult classic “Murdered By Capitalism–A Memoir of 150 Years of Life & Death on the U.S. Left“.