Anti-war counter-culture becoming not so counter....

Derek S. derektheredrebel at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 18 19:40:24 MST 2003


I moved to New York City about 10 days ago, right in
time for the anti-war demonstration on saturday. In
the days leading to the event, I was amazed at the
amount of building that had went into it: posters,
stickers, and flyers were everywhere I turned, and I
was never at loss to find an actvist handing out
flyers for the rally at the entrance/exit of subway
stations. There was a buzz about it that pervaded the
whole city-- I overheard conversations about it in
subways, elevators, cornerstores. Louis' earlier post
concerning anti-war sentiment at Colombia attests to
all this.

Standing in line at the Metropolitan Musuem of Art the
friday before the rally, I overheard two high school
girls in front of me discussing whether they were
going to go, and towards the end of the line I saw a
couple with buttons on promoting it. The next morning,
a few hours before the demonstration, I went out to
buy bagels, whereupon I overheard two middle-aged
women gossiping about it, one saying how she was going
to get there, the other skeptical about attending
because of the fear that her ten year old daughter
might get stampeded on (I tried to convince her that
this was highly unlikely).

My thoughts on the actual event have already been
articulated by everyone else on this list. It was
truly inspiring, primarily because of it's mainstream
flavor, which was far stronger than in any other
political event I've ever attended, combined with it's
sheer size (literally taking over the east side of
Manhattan).

In the few days since it ended, it's impact is still
felt strongly. As I walk down the street, I see
someone wearing an anti-war button on every other
block (usually they see mine, and then we exchange
smiles-- a silent, mutual affirmation on the busy
streets of New York). Protest signs are pegged into
the snow, some still there. I've lived in big cities
the last 10 years of my life, and I've never seen a
progressive cause stretch this far out into the
public. Normal people are wearing they're anti-war
buttons with pride, and they are literally everywhere.
Anti-war political expression has attained a cultural
presence in normal, everyday life.

(I just read that a famous British designer had his
runway models wear clothing that said "No War, Blair
Out". This illustrates my point, albeit the obvious
downside that a section of the fashion industry is
trying to coopt anti-war sentiment).

This emerging anti-war culture has become larger and
more visible since Saturday, from my personal
observations. I think this is because all the
demonstrations this weekend provide a concrete
foundation or reference point for people to take off
from. Further, the media attention and the
international character of the protests give them a
new legitimacy; people truly feel like they are part
of something concrete, worldwide, and representative
of the majority. This is all fueled by the experience
of actually going through the protest, and all the
emotions and empowerment that conjures up. This is a
movement with momentum, and people know and FEEL it.

The movement has truly made it into the mainstream,
and is even being taken seriously by the mainstream
press. For instance, yesterday in the NY Times, there
was a front page news analysis entitled "A New Power
in the Streets" (I think someone posted this). It
states that "world public opinion", currently being
manifested in the anti-war movement, could be the
counter-superpower to the US. It acknowledges the
mainstream character of the protests (as the Times
also did the day before), and even states that for the
protesters, fighting against the war doesn't mean
sympathy for Saddam Hussein. (This acknowledgement is
important, since it's the strawman that the war-hawks
always pull out. Bush stated this morning that his
disagreements with the protesters lie in that we don't
see Saddam as a threat to the world. When a reporter
pointed out to Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer that
this is misrepresenting the majority of the protesters
views, Fliescher, after evading the question, replied
that he didn't think it was misrepresenting anything,
from his information. I guess the Bush people don't
read the most important bourgeois paper in the US).

But, it's been only three days since the protest here,
and perhaps I'm being overly optomistic about the
scope of an emerging anti-war culture. Time will tell
I guess. But it seems to me that if this is the case,
it is just the tip of the iceburg. If it keeps gaining
momentum, causing peoples' questioning of their rulers
to go deeper and deeper, it will draw out other forms
of injustices plaguing working people today into the
mainstream. If so, perhaps we are entering a new
period where real change is possible, and where
radical ideas actually represent a significant,
concrete section of society. It seems so to me, when
you take into account all the other global factors
that attest to capitalism's dysfunctionality, and the
growing resistance to it on many fronts.

Derek

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