[sixties-l] Which Side Are You On? (fwd)

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Date: Sat Nov 09 2002 - 22:22:38 EST

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    Date: Wed, 06 Nov 2002 13:54:51 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Which Side Are You On?

    Which Side Are You On?


    By Marty Jezer, AlterNet
    October 24, 2002

    All honor to those early American political leaders who would not ratify
    the U.S. Constitution until it included a Bill of Rights. And a special
    "right on" to James Madison and the others who drafted those
    remarkable 10 amendments, especially the first one that gives us the
    right of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion and "the right of
    the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
    redress of grievances."
    Friday at 10:00 p.m. I board one of two buses from Brattleboro to
    Washington, bound for Saturday's anti-war demonstration. We drive all
    night, attend the rally during the day, and then get back on the buses for
    the return trip to Brattleboro. I've never liked going to demonstrations in
    Washington and this is my first one since 1968. But people have to
    stand up and be counted.
    The opponents of the proposed war on Iraq represent majority opinion.
    The Bush Administration and the government of Britain's Tony Blair
    stand alone in the world in pushing for a go-it-alone military action. The
    Bush Doctrine of American world dominance, backed by overwhelming
    military force and a self-proclaimed right to use it whenever and
    wherever we like, is so abhorrent and misguided as to incite worldwide
    protestwhich it has!
    In Britain, Blair faces serious opposition even within his own Labor
    Party. Though the Bush Administration won the endorsement of
    Congress, many congressional supporters, like Senators Kerry, Daschle
    and Feinstein, have expressed disquiet. This is not to excuse their votes;
    given their criticisms, it represents a collective act of cowardice and an
    abrogation of leadership that they will surely regret.
    In this vacuum of leadership, a coalition calling itself ANSWER (for
    "Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), composed of a myriad of
    anti-war and progressive organizations, has come together to plan this
    demonstration. The right wing, when it rallies in Washington, does so
    with a unitary voice and a singular focus that Vladimir Ilich Lenin would
    have admired.
    The anti-war movement, on the other hand, speaks with many, and
    often contradictory, voices. I'm grateful that ANSWER took the
    initiative in calling this demonstration. But most people going to
    Washington will not have heard of the organizations in the ANSWER
    coalition and will likely disagree with the rhetoric of some of the
    speakers. No matter! Like me, they'll be protesting out of their own
    personal politics and outrage.
    Americans have been marching on Washington to petition for a redress
    of grievances for more than 100 years. In 1894, during one of
    America's cyclical economic depressions (this one brought about by
    corporate corruption, stock market speculation, low farm prices and
    non-livable wagessound familiar?), unemployed workers, led by
    Jacob Coxey and thus dubbed "Coxey's Army," marched on
    Washington to demand federal funding for public works. Coxey was
    arrested and the marchers were dispersed.
    It took 40 years and FDR's New Deal for the idea of public job
    creation to become public policy. Public investment, except for war, has
    little support within the current administration. Those of us rallying in
    Washington on Saturday, Oct. 26, embody the spirit of Coxey's Army.
    The 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his
    "I Have A Dream Speech," was a defining moment for the civil rights
    movement. But it took nonviolent sit-ins and civil disobedience, people
    putting themselves into dangerous situations, to win legal civil and voting
    rights for all African Americans.
    The Vietnam War saw numerous anti-war demonstrations in
    Washington. Some included civil disobedience. A few, especially the
    later ones, were compromised by splinter-group violence.
    Demonstrators who come to a nonviolent march or rally and commit
    acts of violence are doing the work of agent provocateurs no matter
    what their intention.
    Great speeches and inspiring moments are rare at demonstrations. In
    1966, at a rally in front of the White House, Carl Oglesby, the new and
    then unknown president of Students for a Democratic Society, gave an
    oration titled "Let Us Shape The Future" that galvanized the audience,
    brought people cheering and to their feet. In it he made the distinction
    between corporate liberals who serve the corporate state and
    humanistic liberals who profess higher ideals. The details of the speech
    are bound up in history, but Oglesby's distinction directly addresses the
    problems of the Democratic Party today.
    The only other inspiring moment I remember was at the Washington
    Monument in 1969 when Dr. Spock, the beloved baby doctor, and
    Pete Seeger led more than a million people in John Lennon's "Give
    Peace A Chance." The astonishing size of that demonstration had a
    profound effect on government policy, encouraging wavering politicians
    to decisively break with the Vietnam policy of the Johnson
    A huge turnout at tomorrow's demonstration could have a similar effect.
    That's the main reason I'm going: to be a number. If there are enough of
    us in Washington, politicians may be emboldened to say what they're
    My first anti-war demonstration was a 1965 march down New York's
    Fifth Avenue to protest the war in Vietnam. I had already written
    members of Congress and my then liberal hero, Vice President Hubert
    Humphrey. Now it was time to act. The New York newspapers had
    red-baited the parade, claiming it had been organized by Communists. It
    was very uncomfortable, that first time, publicly protesting the policies of
    my country. But I knew we were in the right, and I felt emboldened by
    our numbers.
    "Which side are you on"? an old labor song asks. You study an issue,
    discuss it with people you trust, question the assumptions of both the
    advocates and the dissenters, consult your conscience and then, when
    you make your decision, you act.
    That's what the patriots who pushed for and conceived the Bill of Rights
    were thinking. Americans have the right to dissent, directly to our
    government. Protest is patriotic, and this protest, most especially this
    protest, is essential for the soul and safety of the country.
    Marty Jezer's books include "Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel." He
    writes from Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at

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