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A Few Crazy People Protest the President's Policy But It's Not Important Really
27 October 2002

"U. S. Peace Marches Draw Thousands," declared the BBC Website on 10/26/02, 8 p.m. PST. During the nationwide anti-war protests in the U.S. on this day, conference organizers reported over 200,000 in Washington D.C. alone. Assuming the answer lies somewhere in between, gee, that would be, like, lots more than a coupla thousand, wouldn't it, Mr. Wizard? BBC reported a paltry 5,000 in San Francisco, characterizing the marchers as "Palestinian pressure groups." Well, my white children ain't no Palestinian pressure group, and my eldest says there were a hell of a lot more than 5,000 people at the rally. "There were more than 5,000 people," she said, "waiting in line at the Port-a-Potties." Let's get real. CNN reported 100,000 in San Francisco during the event, and the organizers put the account at 180,000. The Iraqui News Agency hasn't gotten around to reporting on it yet (but you really must check out their incredibly retro logo).

The numbers of people at various protests - most "liberal" gatherings, of course - are typically under-reported by the press. I'm remembering the 1:10 headcounts of rallies I attended during the Vietnam War. Participants in protests are also frequently marginalized by the language used - compare "activists" and "Palestinian sympathizers" with the "elederly people and young parents with children in strollers" as reported by AP. Yahoo! News featured the appearances of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Islamic groups at the Washington rally. Mother Jones was one of the few sources that noted the appearance of Scott Ritter, former U.N. Weapons Inspector.

It seems that the news media themselves may be under pressure to write news with a pro-Bush slant. For example, when I was recently in Germany, I was told by members of the press that a German reporter was fired from her newspaper job the previous week under pressure from the U.S. Embassy. The reporter in question was drawing a few ominous parallels between our li'l Bush and the unmentionable uber-bully himself.

The news pretends to speak to our cerebrums, but it really talks to our reptilian brains. Our language-processing circuits have been fried by the endless crap pumped out by television, billboards, "news" media, sitcoms, ATM screens. The news gets uglier and bloodier every day in no small part because that's what it takes to get our attention.

Here's my press release:

In the United States on October 26, 2002, the first of what is likely to be many waves of organized anti-war rallies occurred in response to President George W. Bush's stated desire to invade Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of American citizens took to the streets to declare that the proposed war was not in keeping with American values. Many took a moment to mourn the recent untimely death of Senator Paul Wellstone, who perished along with his wife, daughter, and two pilots in a mysterious plane crash. Senator Wellstone was one of the few patriots who voted against giving the President Congressional approval to wage pre-emptive war.

And here's my advice:

If you want your brain to work, turn off your TV. If you want to know how many people are at a peace rally, attend one. If you want to know how Senator Wellstone died, keep asking. If you want the world to change, start with yourself. Look to your spiritual center. Examine your priorities. Think about energy and entitlement. Sell your SUV (or take it to the dump - driving it off a cliff would be littering).

Ask yourself what most people in the world really want. The answers are likely to be adequate unadulterated food, a place to live, honest work, freedom from environmental poisons and destruction, health care, education, a voice, personal integrity, a future for their children. They/we rightly want a way to celebrate ourselves and our communities without violence or prejudice, and without fear of retribution. Our Native Americans are still waiting for that one. Our gay and transgendered people are still being murdered by white men whose fragile "masculine" egos can brook no difference. I would venture a guess that those same "masculine" egos are at work in patriarchal repression and violence throughout the world. Ask the Women in Black - Palestinian and Jewish women bonded together through a desire for peace - what stands in their way. If you really want to change the world, work on that. And that, my friends, is a meme - a story - an ethos - and such things are created by humans, and so they can be created by us.

When you are working on the basic needs of people everywhere, you are working for peace. When people want more than these things, be suspicious. Be very suspicious. Call out and resist obscenities of power, violence,  and wealth. When you hear a "news story" that inflames you, log onto the Web. Triangulate: look at the story from at least three distinctly different news sources and draw your own conclusions. And then take action. At the very least, remember that "lexis is praxis." And if you don't know what that means, get off your ass and look it up.

Did I say, turn off your TV?

The best advice of all comes from my friend Joe Lambert, head of the Center for Digital Storytelling: "Listen deeply. Tell stories." I would only like to add: post them on the web.