Antiwar poll from the underground...

Derek S. derektheredrebel at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 21 14:23:14 MST 2003


I went to the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art again
today intending to hang out, read, and check out some
of the exhibits. Standing in line to check my bag, it
was deja vu: just like last week, I spotted a young
woman wearing an antiwar sticker in back of me, and
the middle age guy in front of me on his cell phone,
upon seeing my button, turned and told me how much he
liked the Feb 15th demonstration, and how absurd the
war drive is.

This just keeps happening to me. So, I decided to
ditch my casual plan and have a little fun. I wanted
to ask fifty random, diverse people in the museum a
simple yes/no question: do you support the decision to
attack Iraq without UN support? If they answered "no",
I would ask them if they'd support it upon UN
approval.

I did my best to insure diversity in terms of age,
race, and gender with the people I polled. I also
tried to ask seemingly working class people (such as
security guards) what they thought. I didn't approach
people who looked overtly hippie or artsy looking,
because these type tend to be antiwar. I was more
interested in finding out what ordinary folks thought,
so I looked for people who you'd just as well see
walking down the streets of Harlem, the Lower East
side, or suburban America.

All together I approached 50 people. Here's how I
break them up, using my best judgment:
AGE: Young: 23,  Middle aged: 20,   Old: 7
RACE: White: 18,  Black: 9,  Latino: 13,  Asian: 10
GENDER: Male: 23, Female: 27

(Asian includes both east and south asian (India,
Pakistan, etc)).

Here's the results. After, I'll leave a few
observations that go beyond the numbers.

Pro-war w/o UN: 5
Anti-war w/o UN: 45 (90%!!!)

Pro-war w/ UN: 11
Anti-war even w/ UN: 34 (so 68% are against war no
matter what!!!)

AGE:
Young people: all 23 young people I asked were against
the war w/o the UN. 17 of them were still against it
even with the UN.

Middle aged: 15 were against the war w/o the UN, 5 for
war w/o the UN. Of the former 15, 13 were still
against the war even with the UN.

Old folks: All 7 I asked were against the war w/o the
UN. 4 were still antiwar even with the UN

RACE:
Whites: 16 out of 18 whites were against the war w/o
the UN. 13 were still against it with the UN.

Blacks: All 9 blacks I asked were against the war w/o
the UN; 7 were still against it with UN approval.

Latinos: 11 out of 13 were against the war w/o the UN.
8 were still against it even with the UN.

Asians: 9 out of 10 were against the war without the
UN. 6 out of this 9 were still against it with the UN.

GENDER:
Male: 20 out of 23 guys were against war w/o the UN.
15 out of this 20 were against it even with the UN.

Female: 25 out of 27 were against it w/o the UN. 19
out of this 25 were against it even with the UN.

--------

So there you go-- the results are pretty reassuring.
But the numbers don't tell enough.

First of all, most of the people who supported the war
only with the UN told me they did so very uneasily and
with hesitation and reservations. They'd only support
it if there was proof of WMD's, and the vote was near
unanimous throughout the UN. The whole time, there was
only 4 people who quickly and unambiguously supported
the the war. Two of them were white parents with their
kids; one was a south Asian guy who seemed like he was
a business student. The other was a male latino
security guard who just give me a knee-jerk reaction
inflated with machismo: "You gotta watch your back. No
one's gonna do it for ya".

I asked one hip looking black teenager what he
thought, and received a straight and strong "no" to
both questions. I told him that almost everyone agreed
with him, and that only a few disagreed. His reply:
"Were they (the pro-war people) white?".

I spotted two older women sitting down on a bench. I
think they did some sort of janitorial work at the
Museum. One was latina (probably Dominican or Puerto
Rican) and the other Jamaican. At first, they were
both a little hesitant, but after a second they
spilled their guts about what they thought. They both
agreed that it was just a war between two men (one
suggested Bush and Saddam just duke it out
themselves). They talked on and on about how this war
won't help ordinary people out at all.

It was the case with a lot of people that once I asked
them the question, they'd begin by thinking out loud
and end up by passionately saying what was on their
mind concerning war, their leaders, their lives.
People have a craving to give their opinion on the
things that affect their lives-- all you need to do is
scratch them a bit. And everyone that talked to me
displayed an intelligence that pierced right through a
lot of the Bush war rhetoric and, moreover, came
straight out of a sense, conscious or not, of their
class interest.

There were a couple people who referred to Vietnam.
They said that this seemed like a repeat, that we're
going into Iraq for ulterior motives, and it could be
a total disaster.

I walked up to one latino guy who looked like a thug.
He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and had huge, widely
tattooed, muscular arms, and several gold chains
wrapped around all his limbs. He was with his two kids
and wife. After thinking about it for a second, he
told me it was a complicated thing, but that we should
not start a war with or without the UN. He said that
it's just the people up top who are doing this, and
that we shouldn't do this even with what happened with
9/11. His wife was more surely and forthrightly
anti-war.

Lastly, there was one old black woman, a security
guard, who I asked. Her first instinct was to support
the war. Her reason was that 9/11 was such a tragic
event. Ordinary people who had nothing to do with
politics were killed, and we can't let "them" attack
us again (she was obviously just assuming that Iraq
was in on 9/11). The cool thing was that she starting
off very quiet and unsure of herself. When I started
walking away, she stopped me. She started getting more
energetic and articulate and thinking it through out
loud. Soon, she resolved that there was no easy
answer.

I finally walked away from this woman. When I went
past her again later, she stopped me and restarted the
conversation. I told her what I thought in a few
sentences, explaining to her why I didn't think Iraq
was a threat, and why the administration really wanted
to attack. She seemed to agree. As I walked away for
the last time, she told me that it was terrible that
our young boys and girls were going over to Iraq to
die. "So young... so young", she said with a sad,
regretful face. (I marked her down as a anti-war w/o
UN, but pro-war w/ UN. After our conversation she may
have changed her mind about war even with the UN-- I
wasn't sure, but it seemed so).

I'm probably forgetting some stuff. There's more
generalizations to take from all this. But the most
inspiring thing, besides the intuitive antiwar
instinct and distrust of the government that most
people have, was seeing ordinary people speak their
minds about things they're normally not encouraged to.
It was like watching a a flower bloom. Many people
walked away continuing the debate amongst themselves.

Change is so, so possible.

Derek





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