The building I work in faces Pioneer Square. Every day since the war started (is it technically a war?), protesters of every stripe have occupied it either singly or in great numbers. Every day, I literally have a bird’s eye view of what is going on.
The first day of protesting started in Terry Schrunk Plaza. I didn’t go. I didn’t participate in the class walk out (a foolish thing to do during finals), and I haven’t really done anything pro or con about it at all.
Being for or against war is not that simple. Just because I am anti-war doesn’t mean I don’t support our troops. Personally, I don’t see them as the agents of doom. My dad, both grandfathers and a great uncle are veterans. I have a very hard time looking at my Uncle Jim and thinking that he may have skewered people during the Korean War. My gentle Grandpa was a gunner, but he doesn’t like to talk about that. I’m sure that any veteran who has killed doesn’t have easy thoughts about what happened.
My boss and I argued about whether or not the people in the military are complicit in the current action in Iraq. I agreed that yes, they are to a degree complicit, but many of them joined the military not just because they thought it was the noble, American thing to do, but because it was also a way out of a rough neighborhood, a way to get job training and experience or perhaps a way to help pay for college.
Of course, as the war gets more complicated, these thoughts also become more complex. It’s not a black-and-white issue.
The same goes for the peace demonstrators. I think that for the most part, these are law-abiding citizens who feel frustrated they cannot do anything to prevent the violence our government is wreaking in the name of liberation. There are people, like myself, who find the whole Iraq debacle stomach-wrenching, for so many reasons. Babies die. Mothers die. Soldiers die. Grandparents die. And I can view this on CNN. It makes me want to vomit.
But for me, marching in the streets doesn’t do it. It doesn’t squelch the fear in the pit of my stomach when things like the USA PATRIOT Act takes away the Constitutional rights of those arrested under suspicion of committing acts of terrorism. Or when I see dead people on CNN. Yes, Saddam is an evil leader. Is it our job to stop him?
At any rate, my solution is to put on a suit and try to work for change. People like George Bush do not listen to a body-pierced anarchist in black or a patchouli-soaked hippie who hasn’t showered in months. You can piss and moan all you like about the system and how you have to be you and be different, but sometimes, you have to dress like you are playing the game.
For instance, I consider Ralph Nader a dirty hippie. But by dirty I mean something other than actual dirt or stink, but this isn’t the time or the place to go into the Rose-hates-Ralph-Nader-and-all-the-Green-Party-hate-mail-in-the-world-won’t-change-her-mind speech.
What I mean is Nader has some decidedly leftist politics. But Nader doesn’t look like Tre Arrow or Craig Rosebraugh. He also has some fairly sane ideas, like product safety, unlike Tre and Craig, who have very spurious notions of ways to bring about a regime change.
Nader is someone college students can get behind and liberal soccer moms don’t feel too bad about supporting. Nader wears a suit, and people listen to his ideas. Do you know why we have seat belt manufacturing and safety rules? Do you know why unsafe cars come off the streets? Because Nader took a shower, put on a suit and got a straight job. Certainly most of his day isn’t glamorous or important, but on the days he needs people to listen to him, a lot of people do, because he looks like a clean-cut individual.
And that, my demonstrating friends, is how you should be trying to affect change. Make use of your talents for something useful, instead of bashing in windows or telling anti-war demonstrators they don’t belong in America (which is really paradoxical, because one of the beauties of being American is the freedom of speech) because they don’t support the troops. Go get some nice pants and really work for change. Because being different isn’t about the punk rock anarchy patches on your jacket, but what’s inside your soul.