Friday, March 02, 2007

Ten Reasons Why Our Protests Against the Iraq War Were Not Inconsequential

Back when we were dating, MaGreen and I led local protests against the Iraq war. We were the megaphone carrying, permit securing, speech writing, meeting attending activists. The marches and rallies we helped organize were the largest Houston had ever seen. We spent between twenty and forty hours per week, between the two of us, on anti-war organizing from 2003 to 2005.

We never got paid and nobody gave us a plaque. Our activism was at a tremendous personal cost. Yesterday, a student I work with told me, not knowing my history of activism, that the anti-war protests were “inconsequential.” My chin started to quiver as I tried to calmly explain why the protests did have tremendous consequences. Below is the list I wish I had given him:

10) The invasion and subsequent occupation has devastated Iraq, killed thousands upon thousands of soldiers and civilians, drained funding for pressing problems, and undermined diplomacy. At one level, I’m simply glad to have voiced our opposition, and helped others’ voice theirs, to this catastrophe.

9) We helped develop a critical public discourse before the invasion, which will contribute to ending the war more quickly now. Widespread, public opposition to the Vietnam War did not develop for many years in the US and the catastrophe of that war lasted a very long time.

8) By questioning the motives behind the invasion, our dissent helped prevent UN backing of the invasion and helped to keep most nations from joining the so-called coalition of the willing.

7) Our protests helped embolden corporate media to cover dissent and the catastrophic effects of the war. We helped shape a media landscape dominated by coverage of celebrity wardrobes and football games.

6) We helped build a national and international infrastructure for coordinating dissent. We planned our actions on dates set by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). I attended the UFPJ’s first major conference and voted on its governance and agenda.

5) The anti-war protests helped generate interest in the development of alternative, local media in Houston, such as and KPFT local news.

4) We learned how to plan actions without much help. We made mistakes. Once we had figured out how to secure permits, hold meetings, form functional coalitions, disseminate our announcements, and stage a good event, we trained other people who wanted to do something but did not know how. We especially tried to collaborate with young people, women, and people of color. I think we contributed to the development of a more empowered and diverse group of activists in Houston.

3) We were transformed. We passed through fire. We saw the charred innards of activism in the US. Yet, I believe we emerged less cynical. We may be weary, but I feel strong inside.

2) We became friends with extraordinary people who worked with us organizing actions. Our lives have been filled with their love and support.

1) MaGreen and I learned that beautiful, unimaginable things can come of our relationship. I grew confident that we could be good parents.


Scott Hughes said...

We could have better protested the Iraq war by refusing to pay taxes. How can we oppose a war and fund it at the same time? If you have better ideas for activism than boycotting taxes, share them at the Activism Forums.

jen said...

this, and you are outstanding.

in fact, i want to grab this for our Just Post Roundtable, if you don't mind...

GreenDaddy said...

Thanks Jen! Just Post Roundtable sound great.

Scott, I'll always been ambivalent about the not paying taxes action. I'm not sure I want to give up federal government altogether.

cake said...

i wish i could agree with you on this one, but i just can't. i left that struggle MORE cynical...about those methods we used...about the ability of those methods to create any significant change.

i do agree on one point though...the strong friendships that can come of such work. for that, i have no regrets.

i'd love to talk with you about this sometime.

GreenDaddy said...

Thanks Cake. I set a low bar when writing this post by responding to the claim that the protests were inconsequential. It would be more difficult to argue that our methods were effective or that if we could go back in time we should do it over in the same way.

I do want to talk to you about this sometime.

Lynnie said...

This post is so old I don't even know if you'll get this comment, but I just had to add to your list that it is ALWAYS important for the government to know that SOMEONE IS WATCHING. Someone is always watching and ready to speak up and hopefully this will always be true. The second our government thinks no one is paying attention, that's when to worry. Or worry more, anyway.