Perceiving the Situation


Beyond Bush and his ilk predictably trying to use calamity to propel their

reactionary agendas on every front they can, from repressive legislation about

eavesdropping, to military expansion, and even to tax policy — it is certainly

also true and must be faced that many citizens are in a violent mood, suggesting

all kinds of anti-civilian acts. So many that it feels overwhelming.


how many U.S. citizens who are advocating bombings realize that the people of

Afghanistan already live in a horrendously war-torn country, made virtually

rubble from its war with Russia? How many understand that hunger and the danger

of starvation for Afghanistan is so great that a misstep at this juncture – for

example, cutting off all outside food aid, even without bombs – could cause not

thousands but literally millions of innocent deaths by starvation? Not many of

our citizens, is my guess. When such information is conveyed, how many will hold

to the vengeful stance? When it becomes evident that vengeance by assault on

civilians is precisely terrorism, that assault on civilians for political

purposes is precisely terrorism, how many will want to hold to warring

indiscriminately, to being a terrorist? One wonders how many of those working at

Ground Zero in NYC would wish military devastation on innocent civilians in

another country. Not many, if any, is my guess.


what is even more promising, is that even in a moment of great pain and

mourning, even at a time of national rallying, even when all public pressures

cry for war, even before there has been opportunity to counter media madness and

government manipulation with valid argument and evidence, even now many and

probably most people are already wondering at least somewhat about the wisdom of

Bush’s stance, and are even contemplating such unspeakable conclusions as that

the cure for terrorism is not more and even greater terrorism, and that the cure

for fanaticism is not to dispense with civil liberties.


think there may be a tendency afoot among many activists, totally

understandable, to see the great outpourings of nationalism and to be

pessimistic beyond what evidence warrants. Yes, the events have been horrible in

their immediate impact, of course. And yes the hypocritical willingness of Bush

and others to try to parlay pain into more suffering in different forms, and

even into more terror, has been stunning and terrifying. But there are good

signs too – not solely in the humanity of the massive outpourings of sympathy,

but also in the opposition to race hatred against Arabs that has erupted as

quickly and perhaps more pervasively than the reverse, and in the almost

instantaneous emergence of both reason and activism regarding war prospects.


I want to share with you information from a communication from Portland Oregon.

The letter writer communicates that:

“Today we had an anti-war demo in Portland. Like so many of you have expressed,

I too have felt that we are heading into a very dark time for activism, no less

radical politics.


Portland has seen a fair amount of activism lately – events large (1500+ for

this year’s May Day march, which had a permit taken out by the City Council

because organizers refused to get one and the city didn’t want to arrest

everyone) and small (40 radical activists and union brothers and sisters

shutting down the Port of Portland and delaying the offloading of an Italian

vessel in protest of the G8 police rioting, a picket line which the longshoremen

refused to cross, setting off similar actions as that ship proceeded along the

west coast).


say all that for context, because I reckon things are a bit "better" here for

that sort of activism than in many other communities around the country.

“Having said that, this was the largest demonstration I’ve been to in Portland

since the Gulf War! Organizers were able to do a pretty good count as we were

walking along a narrow area, and there were at least 2600 people there to speak

against the incessant beating of the war drums.

“Nobody could believe it. Everyone (strangers I talked to, acquaintances I

talked to) had been feeling very isolated and had taken on a very bleak attitude

about the future of `the left.’


marched in the streets without a permit, spanning 12 or more blocks. There were

no police anywhere to be seen. “This caused some problems, in that they *do*

tend to be helpful with traffic control. Ah, well… we did ok without ‘em on

that one too, a few irate drivers notwithstanding :-)

“Well, 2600 isn’t enough to stop the impending war, but it’s a far bigger start

than anyone expected. All is not lost! Let’s not let our gloomy perspectives of

the moment, (which are perfectly understandable as we watch the manufacture of

consent occur before our very eyes, at breakneck speed) let’s not let that gloom

turn our very rational fears into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“Afterward, I went to a `vigil’ organized by the Christian Coalition :-( This

occurred in the main `public’ square in town (semi-privately owned and

operated). There were fewer people at this one, but not by much. The creepy

rhetoric of right-wing Christianity was toned down, but not by much. At least it

was toned down though. We were there mostly in case of needing to protect any

victims of the racism seething beneath the surface.


stood amidst the sea of American flags, amidst the `rousing’ renditions of the

great patriotic hits, holding a `Jingoism Hurts America’ sign. I got into some

rather interesting conversations with people who wanted to know what jingoism

meant. I described it as a form of rhetoric using a chauvinistic patriotism to

justify an arrogant and belligerent foreign policy. Some nodded and walked away,

but many lingered to discuss. My friends and I were only too happy to oblige :-)

With some sensitivity, it is possible to clue people in on the activities of the

CIA in the overthrow of democratic governments, the institution of autocratic

regimes such as the Taliban, and the creation of Osama bin Laden himself.


couldn’t believe the conversations! Who knows if we did anything. Anyhow, it’s

not necessarily doom and gloom – let’s get back out there and be visible, now!

I got

the above letter without a return email address for its author. But here is my

reply…Yes, you did something. You did precisely what we all need to be doing.

You went out and worked for peace and justice, and you did it without fear and

without arrogance, and without presuppositions. And you showed, in the process,

what the potential is of such work.



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