August 25, 2004
Bright blue tarps, painted with glaring yellow letters, are going up on dozens of rooftops in Brooklyn, under the flight paths into busy New York airports. Thousands of delegates and convention guests peering down at the city might see messages like “No more years” and “Re-defeat Bush.”Certainly this is a smarter piece of political communication than the sort of “direct action” examined by Rick Perlstein in this piece in the Voice:
The War Resisters League, like A31.org, cites a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that includes these words, offered as if a taunt: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”As ever, it’s the difference between wanting to actually accomplish change, and merely looking for opportunities to enact your beliefs. [10:55 AM]
It would have taken all of King’s powers of Christian love, I think, not to laugh in these people’s faces. King would never ever simply say, “We need to do what our conscience tells us is important to do,” and somehow leave it at that. King planned his insurgencies with the strategic care of a military general, and with the characteristic obsessions of a top-drawer publicist: no risk of arrest, of violence—even when arrest or violence was welcomed, embraced for its communicative power—was ever left to chance. (Today’s protesters revel in their embrace of improvisation, as if it were a good in itself.) And he never left the field of battle satisfied with mere moral victory, that his side had demonstrated more righteousness than the other. He always had a concrete political goal, that concrete goal but a step toward his continually evolving transcendent goals. […]
[Protest organizer] Rae Valentine is even right, in a cosmic sense, when she says that “people understand that the so-called chaos of streets being shut down by protesters or even a window being broken is nothing compared to the day-to-day chaos and destruction of people being able to afford housing, or health care. That’s where the real violence—in the system—lies.”
But she is not right in the sense that matters: the political sense. “I think people understand,” she says. Linger on that formulation. It is only inane arrogance that gives someone the confidence to pronounce that, magically, “people will understand.” They might not understand at all. Instead, what they might understand is: “Bush is better than anarchy in the streets.” It ain’t fair. But if it all goes down as unplanned, there’ll be a whole lot more unfairness coming down the pike in the next four years.