fire eaters! puppets! art! (and some protests)
I'm rethinking my planned outing to the city on Saturday. I'm afraid.
Oh, I'm not afraid of terrorists or dirty bombs or falling planes. I'm afraid of the protesters.
Diane has written a post about the marches and the planned violence that will be surrounding them. This is why I scour Indymedia every day. I want to know what these people are up to. I want to know how they think, if they think and what their next move is.
I'm old enough to remember the Vietnam protests. Not just from tv or the newspapers; I saw them up close.
I guess I was about eight or nine at the time. My older cousin Fran was the typical college student of the time - anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-war and full of ideals that made no sense for the time we lived in.
On a number of occassions I found myself in the car with my aunt (Fran's mother), riding up and down the local streets looking for Fran. One evening we spotted Fran amongst a loud, rebellious group of student protesters in the Modell's parking lot (back when Modell's was a supermarket/department store, not a sporting goods store).
I was terrified. The students were rioting more than protesting. I heard breaking glass, profane shouts and watched a police car go up in flames. There was some kind of hose on the side of the building, possibly a fire hose, I'm not really sure, and some of the students turned the hose on and aimed it at the approaching police.
I started crying and told my aunt I wanted to go home. But she was patient. She was still. We sat in her little car as she stared at the crowd, scanning the rioting mass for her daughter. An egg splattered across the windshield. My aunt barely flinched. Fire extinguishers were going off. There was foam everywhere. I think I nearl peed my pants out of fear.
Finally, my aunt spotted Fran. She calmly got out of the car, walked through a throng of egg-throwing kids, stepped over a drunken boy, walked past the wall where "Die Pigs!" was hastily spray painted, and grabbed Fran by her hair. She dragged her back to the car and threw her in. My aunt drove through the crowd as if we were in a tank.
No one said a word on the way home. My aunt dropped me off and I ran into my house, glad to escape Fran, who was covered in foam and eggs and the smell of fear.
So here I am, almost thirty years later and while the times have changed, the counter culture hasn't, except for the striking organization with which they gather.
The anti-war protests are no longer impromptu gatherings of college students. They are well-planned, financially backed pep rallies for a million causes. No longer satisfied with gathering just to speak out against war, they now gather by the thousands to denounce the president, the military, meat eaters, loggers, Israel and the inarceration of murderers.
Even the violence is set up ahead of time, with guides and maps to the nearest Starbucks or conservative newspaper offices, pamphlets listing slogans to spray paint on the walls of government buildings, and the irony of planned anarchy.
Lawyers are called upon to give the do's and dont's of a a healthy protest march.
There are lists of what to do in the event of arrest- and also guides to getting arrested as this is the mark of a high quality protester.
A carnival atmosphere in the midst of breaking glass and defaced buildings will lend an air of celebration to the protests. But why? What are they celebrating? What will fire eaters and drummers provide for the cause except to turn it into a circus?
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco. This is serious business. What happened to the days of a carton of eggs and few rounds of Blowin' in the Wind? Now there's street parties and animal liberationists, anarchists and after-protest parties.
I would probably have more respect for the protesters if they just gathered in a large parking lot and threw eggs at the cops. At least back in the days of my cousin Fran, they spoke in one voice, for one cause.
Now, it's become a contingent of confusion. There are so many causes and protests wrapped into one that the main goal of the marches is all but lost amidst the planned violence and voices of fringe organizations.
We get it. We know you don't like war. Guess what? No one does.
Now, instead of counter protesting like I wanted to do, I will stay in the safety of my own home. The violence and anger inherent in today's peace protests is frightening. And the irony seems to be lost on those who should see it the most.