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Commentary :: Peace

The Ehrlich Report

A monthly column of political commentary. Thid month: Demonstrations for peace
Once upon a very short time ago 100,000 people gathered in the belly of the beast otherwise known as The Nation’s Capital. They came from all over, some spending 12 hours on a bus to get there. They called their gathering an antiwar demonstration, though some called it a peace rally. Lots of people brandished lots of signs. Most signs called for unseating the senior occupant of the White House while others reminded us of his lies and the deadly aftereffects of his lies.

There was an assembly around the Capitol and various people spoke to the crowd though no one seems to be able to recall anything they said other than calling for an end to the war and bringing the troops home.

There will be another Washington rally in March. Will you be there? Why do people go, anyway?

Some go so as to show people (supporters, fence-sitters, politicians, even adversaries) that there are millions of people like them. They go, too, to remind themselves that they are not alone. They go to reaffirm and validate their own feelings. Some go to meet old friends, while others go to be social and meet new friends.

Some people do listen to the speakers, although there are typically too many on too many issues, low on information, and high on call and response. Celebrities are invited to seduce the news writers to think they have something newsworthy to write. And too many speakers are at the podium because they represent groups that bargained their support of the demonstration for a spot on the program.

Let’s face it. We do need ways to express our opposition beyond milling about at mass rallies. It’s not that we don’t need occasional mega millings, but we need to make them more satisfying and more politically effective..

First of all, let’s try to make these rallies more fun. It would be easy, too, because generally speaking these rallies have “good vibes.” People are friendly and open. We want to maximize that. I favor multiple starting points with self-selected groups eventually converging on a selected target. The smaller size and common theme may make for an even greater sense of solidarity.

Let’s limit the speakers and go for more musicians, comedians, performance artists and poets to nurture our souls. For our information and education, we should encourage tabling and the distribution of broadsides, announcements, newsletters and newspapers. The real education should start a few days later. As organizers, this is our opportunity–not lobbying or begging those who brought us the war to do something courageous–or at least intelligent and decent.

Every rally should have a scheduled follow-up. It needn’t be big, but it need be educational and political. After all, here are people who have already taken that first step. Now is the time for them to take that next step. One step at a time, that’s how we make a revolution.

There is something else we need to do after (and somewhat before) a large demonstration. We need to monitor the news media. While this is an appropriate job for IndyMedia, they haven’t yet taken this up. Every city should have a journalism review. The news media have been a major source of support for the atrocities of this war and we need to expose their ineptitude and to exhibit their bias. U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson commented during the First World War, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.” Wouldn’t it read better if we could say that when truth comes, war is a first casualty.


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