Protest (American, definitely not a verb): Wait for UFPJ or ANSWER to stage a parade (I mean, demonstration) on a weekend afternoon so no one misses work or school or in any way disrupts the flow of commerce. Don’t make a sign; the organizers will make one for you. March in an orderly fashion, be polite to the occupying army (I mean, cops), and be sure to stay in designated free speech zones. Blame the Republicans. Wear costumes. Make puppets. Exclude anarchists. Hold a candlelight vigil. Sign a petition. Chant. Vote for a Democrat and hope for change. Need I continue?
With the stakes never higher than they are now, why aren’t activists ramping up the pressure and looking beyond tactics that are allowed by those in power?
Here are my five guesses:
1. We are trained to believe that nothing major is wrong. Global warming? Economic meltdown? Epidemics of preventable diseases? Slavery, genocide, ecocide? You name it and we’re ready to downplay it. We’re Americans, goddammit, we’ll figure out a way to fix it. When the going gets tough, we’ll call the experts.
2. We are trained to leave it to experts. Rather than worry our little heads over why more than 100 plant and animal species go extinct each day, we rely on experts. Instead of learning what a “collateralized-debt obligation” is and how it contributed to the current economic depression, just let the professionals handle the mess. Besides, such delegation frees up much more time to watch TV and update our Facebook pages.
3. We are trained to embrace non-violence. All the real heroes would never raise a fist in anger: Jesus, MLK, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, etc. Sure, the government and its corporate owners are taking away all our rights and all our money. They’re poisoning our air, water, and food while crafting laws that make prison a looming possibility, but the moment we contemplate anything more than a non-violent response, we become worse than any of them. Ain’t that right?
4. We feel too damn privileged to risk prison (or worse). The average Gaza resident doesn’t have the luxury of wondering if their resistance could result in arrest and thus perhaps ruin their reputation. The average American? Well, that’s a different story. I can’t defy insane laws designed to squash protest. I might get arrested and that means close proximity to all those scary criminals and it also means hurting my chances of landing a good job and maybe even losing all my respectable friends. I mean, I’m an activist and all but that’s asking way too much. Who do you think I am, Mandela?
5. We’re fuckin’ cowards. Our acquiescence in a disturbingly broad range of areas—access to health care, tolerance for voting irregularities, directly funding the Israeli war machine, stomaching the groupthink behind saluting a flag, etc. etc. etc.—appears to have no limits. Americans love to talk the talk about being fearless and tough but when ordered to remove our shoes before going through airport security, it’s “yes sir” all the way.
We know things have passed the proverbial tipping point and that immediate action is 100% needed and justified, but we’re far too spineless to do anything that might get us in trouble. Somehow, it’s more terrifying for any of us to face down a cop than it is to contemplate the total destruction of our earthly eco-system.
If it’s true that action expresses priorities, we American activists aren’t overly concerned about the future.
We now return to our regularly scheduled slate of left wing articles…
Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net
From the archives: