Putting the Pro in Protest

“I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”

— Dwight Eisenhower

People are used to being against Bush, to protesting against Bush. It’s been easy for some the last several years — whatever Bush is for, we’re against it.

That will no longer do.

We need to be for things and to change the world to achieve those things.

It’s much easier to just say everything is wrong. It’s harder to say, this is what needs to happen — or atleast, this is how we can figure out what needs to happen.

Some are noting that Obama’s policies are highly flawed. Others don’t want to seem to be undermining a new president promising fundamental change. Both groups can work and can PROtest if that protest is FOR something. No need to be defined as being against Obama, nor to be passively waiting for him to do the right thing.

Part of the crux is defining the “us” in this equation. The “us” needs to be global. Progressives in the U.S. need to have more in common with an Afghan child or an African child than with Dick Cheney.

The anti-war movement was at its height on Feb. 15, 2003 when a global day of protest saw millions on the streets of London, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Rome, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Hong Kong and hundreds of other cities. The establishment in the voice of the New York Times called the anti-war movement the “second super power.”

That has seemingly died.

Or has it?

Certainly, it should not.

We can now build an even greater movement, with millions on those streets as well as millions of others — including more Muslim countries. Tools of the internet, media like Democracy Now, The Real News, and Al Jazeera can be utilized in such an effort and then the corporate media will be forced to acknowledge that global force.

Unlike Bush, Obama must listen to such a movement. The lines of communication and coordination must be built on a global scale from the grassroots. Indeed, whenever they have been, progressive forces in the U.S. have been at their strongest. The other high point of progressive action in the last ten years — other than the Feb. 15 protests — was the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. Those too were global in nature. People and organizations — including environmentalists and labor unions — on the streets of Seattle in effect made common cause with the representatives of poorer countries against the governments of richer countries and their corporate allies.

It would be tragic if the global stage is dominated by governments of dubious legitimacy and hierarchical corporate elites as they meet and determine the world’s future. Meetings that do take place of non-governmental organizations, which gain little attention in the public consciousness — even the World Social Forums — are no substitute for visible global PROtests.

And let us learn from Bush. It is wrong to simply be against whatever he says. Bush says that he wants democracy in the Arab world. I’ve always been for authentic democracy in the Arab world. But Bush claims he wants democracy in the Mideast as he occupies the Iraq, backs the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the despotic rule of the Saudi government. While many in the anti-war movement have been attacking Bush for being unilateral, have they not also been unilateral by not building the needed global structures, by not reaching out to the rest of the world which agrees with so many of their stated goals?

Failure to do this now will be a historic tragedy. It will either be a great failure or a tacit admission that people living in the West are not interested in reaching out to the rest of the world. That their economic and national privilege is too enticing. Indeed, this may well help to reach into the “internal third world” — so that poor people in the United States meaningfully participating in political action. That too is threatening to largely middle class movements.

An immediate test of this is at the United for Peace and Justice meeting this weekend: Will it plan to have a protest on the anniversary of the start of the invasion of Iraq, looking backward, being ANTI. Or will it have a PROtest on Feb 15 — sooner, global, looking forward being for a new world?

There are oppressive forces to be sure, but there are substantial opportunities. If WE decide to take them — together. The bigger that WE, the better.

SAM HUSSEINI’s writings are at www.husseini.org. He founded the web page www.compassroses.org on Feb. 15, 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org