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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

The September 15 Protest

This past weekend I was in Washington, D. C. participating in the protest led by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Ms. Angel and I went with our friends Agnes and Jim, who picked us up Friday night and arranged for us to stay with a friend of theirs, Sara. I can't thank Agnes, Jim and Sara enough for being so generous with their time and making it possible for us to be there. We left Friday after work and even though the trip took a bit longer than we expected (close to seven hours), we had a great time just hanging out and talking. We arrived late at night, had a bunch of beers with Sara and her friends and then headed to bed.

We left to meet up with the protesters outside the White House after breakfast the following morning, and we were there to hear some of the speeches given before the march. First up was an eight-year-old who delivered a vaguely apocalyptic spoken word poem that she concluded by shouting "Black Power!" Then Colonel Ann Wright spoke; she resigned from the military in protest of the war in 2003 and complained that nothing has changed since. Cindy Sheehan, who had officially retired in May, said she could not stay away from a protest as important as this one. She was followed by Malik Rahim, a former Black Panther who gained fame as a community organizer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ralph Nader, who I have a great deal of respect for, encouraged everyone to "give their representatives a spine" by continuing to speak out against the war.

After going on a bit too long, everyone was ready to march, and the people flooded the streets; by at least one account, the mass of protesters stretched for ten blocks down the eight-lane road to the capitol. I believe it, too: there were a huge number of people there. We marched, shouting our slogans, including "This is what democracy looks like!" and "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" There were even a few rounds of "Impeach Cheney first!"

We arrived at the lawn of the capitol and the "die-in" began; people laid down in the streets and around the capitol to protest the deaths in Iraq. A whole bunch of people were arrested (from "dozens" to "hundreds", depending on what you read), but overall the energy of the protest seemed to fizzle out. Sure there was a guy shouting "9/11 was an inside job!" over and over again. Sure there were people chanting "Arrest George Bush!" But the impetus for the masses was gone. We went out for some dinner and went home, talking about how such a huge protest could feel so unfocused.

I believe in the cause. I am angry because the government doesn't seem to be listening to the people. The problem is that while there was definitely a theme of frustration tying everyone together, the specifics of the problem are manifold, and everyone seemed to have a somewhat different gripe. There were the Veterans Against the War who feel that the occupation of Iraq is costly and unjust. There's the impeachment crowd that think that Bush-Cheney should be removed on the grounds of incompetence. There were the peacemongers, who I think would be against any war whatsoever. There were anti-imperialists who think that America should mind its own business. There were the Che-worshiping socialists claiming that the ultimate problem was capitalism itself.

And then there was me. I think that Mr. Bush and company have wiped their asses with my Constitution about five times too many.

Now, I have the utmost respect for the speakers, my fellow protesters, and for those who are helping organize the resistance to this war, but my experience at the protest was a bit frustrating and it left me with a greater understanding of why it is so difficult to generate public outcry against the war. I don't think we all agree on exactly what we're pissed off about. And, was so plainly evident by the decidedly lackluster speeches delivered at the rally, there's no single, passionate voice leading the charge to Capitol Hill. The movement has no leader; its message is fragmented.

But it is undoubtedly a movement. Tens of thousands of people don't flood the streets for nothing.

Which brings me to my final point. We watched Fox news coverage of the protest that evening, and according to the broadcast, there were 5,000 anti-war protesters and 1,000 pro-war protesters present, and there is no way in hell that could be true. Anti-war protesters probably outnumbered the guys singing "give soap a chance" by at least fifty-to-one; maybe a hundred-to-one. And there was no way there were just 5,000 people marching. I only have my visual estimate to go by, but I've seen 20,000 people in one place before (e.g., at the Garden) and there were that many people at the protest at the least.

So don't believe the hype and don't get discouraged. The anti-war movement is real and it's gaining speed. With any luck, change won't be far behind.

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Comments on The September 15 Protest
  Comment from Blogger gnome at Monday, September 24, 2007 11:01:00 AM
Ah! You're back, happily married, well tanned and protesting! Excellent, excellent...

Now, lacking a Lenin, I don't think 100% concsiousness and agreement is needed for a succesful protes. In Athens we had 1,000,000 protesters (towards the US embassy) against the war, obviously politically fragmented... Stiil, thought it was something.

Oh, and cheers and welcome and be happy!
  Comment from Blogger Red Bull at Monday, September 24, 2007 11:03:00 AM
Yo Gnomie! Thanks for the warm welcome... I thought you might come by sooner or later once I had started posting again...

Married... check.
Tanned... check.
Protesting... check.
Happy... check.

Now if I could just get another game done...

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.