I was reading an article this morning by Tom Engelhardt called Where have all the protests gone?
In the piece he says, "However, over the years, unlike in the Vietnam era, the [Iraq occupation] demonstrations shrank, and somehow the anxiety, the anger -- though it remained suspended somewhere in the American ether -- stopped manifesting itself so publicly, even as the war went on and on. Or put another way, perhaps the anger went deeper and turned inward, like a scouring agent. Perhaps it went all the way into what was left of an American belief system, into despair about the unresponsiveness of the government -- with paralyzing effect."
In the same article Engelhardt reports that the polls show a continued strong opposition to the Iraq mess. In poll after poll 70% of the public wants the troops home and the occupation to end. But it just keeps going on.
I've always said that the American people are not stupid. They understand that the political system in this country is now under lock-down, similar to the increasing numbers of American citizens living in jail.
While recently in Prague I was on the subway and sat across from a man and I nodded to him and said hello. My guide then translated a conversation I wanted to have with the man. I wanted him to know that I had come to be part of the "No radar" conference. I wanted to take my own personal poll so I could see his reaction.
My guide was amazed when the man said he knew about the conference and that he agreed with our position on the radar. Then he rubbed his fingers together in that universal sign that said it is all about the money. He said the deal has been made, the politicians in the Czech Republic have already been bought off. But he encouraged us and shook my hand as we got off the train.
My experience is that this feeling of powerlessness is universal now. Every country I visit, every place I visit in the U.S., it's always the same story. People care, they want things to change, they just don't believe in the system any longer. It's no coincidence that more people don't vote in the U.S. than those that do vote. It's their one way of actively rejecting the system.
Most people won't join a demonstration these days.....they won't even write a letter to the editor. Most people agree that the corporations run two horses in every race so they don't lose either way.
With so few organizing avenues left to us how do we then make an impact on the system? Many good hearted progressive people I know are just waiting for everything to collapse convincing themselves it is the only way to bring this empire to a halt.
I always ask in return "yeah, it's likely to collapse but how many more people have to die when it falls on them?"
So what do we do?
I am now a firm believer in using the 2008 elections as one more opportunity to have our voices heard by running people from our movements for office as Greens or Independent candidates. Cindy Sheehan's declaration as an Independent candidate for Congress against Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco is already encouraging people across the country to do the same. We need to support this type of activism in our own communities.
We must continue to call for impeachment, even when the Democrats refuse to discuss the issue.
I also think we need more civil disobedience as we face this fork in the road. There is no good reason why active people, especially those retired and financially secure, can't step up and non-violently sit-in a congressional office as a way to dramatize the urgency of our situation.
The world is looking at the peace movement in the U.S. and asking "Why are you people not doing more to stop Bush-Cheney?"
We don't have the luxury of saying that we feel hopeless......that our democracy has been drowned. We must crawl out of our self imposed boxes and stretch ourselves.
As former CIA agent, and anti-war activist, Ray McGovern likes to say, "Necks are a nice and useful thing to have. But necks were not made to be worshiped."
So stick your neck out now....while you still have one.