html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: What would it take?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What would it take?

When the day has come, and you already did what you could from your living room, what would it take for you to leave your house and protest? I’ll try listing things in my guess at an ascending order, and please say (anonymously, if you like) which of these things would make you stand in public to send your government a message. If you think of other interesting intervals, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Declaring war on a country that might be a threat to us.
Declaring war on a country that is manifestly not a threat to us.
Declaring war on a country you love.
Making American citizens wear identifying armbands.
Confiscating the property of American citizens to support a war effort.
Creating new internment camps for American citizens affiliated with a country we’re at war with.
Creating new internment camps for American citizens who are manifestly no threat but marginalized.
Cancelling the next presidential election.
Blatantly and openly changing the Constitution.
Our government disappearing your family.

Please, I don’t want an argument over the order these should go in, or my wording on these, or whether they could happen here. I’m trying to get a rough cut on what would trigger something in you, so that you would stand in public to oppose it. I also don’t want to argue over whether protesting works. Maybe small protests only give the protestors a way to declare themselves and reconcile their actions to their beliefs. But surely if half or a third of the country stood in the streets in outrage that would change a government’s course. For that matter, what is your guess on the percentage of the population that would have to physically protest to change this administration’s course?

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this too. We seem to be gradually morphing into the evil empire here. Yet we are, most of us, wealthy and comfortable and reasonably happy here in the home country. A small cabal is in charge, of the military anyway. So what the hell can an individual do? But...Jesus, I really hate this. I so much wish that we could just think about ordinary politics, like the California state budget. I'm not even all that liberal on those topics, by California standards anyway. But this war thing...a war on Iran would be stone freaking evil.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many of those things already happen?

Confiscating property to support a war effort - don't we do this all the time as part of the war on drugs? I see lots of stories about it.

Identifying arm bands, maybe not. But aren't we headed towards a national ID? Aren't they collecting DNA samples of all kinds of people now in the UK? Aren't we doing the same thing here in some places for anyone arrested (not necessarily convicted, or even charged).

Blatantly and openly changing the constitution. I'm not really a legal expert, but DUI road blocks, property forefeiture without due process from the war on drugs, and I know there are others, but I'm tired.

Justin

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

It appears to me that protests are generally counterproductive. They bring out freaks and extremists who make the mainstreamers think "I may be against the way in Iraq but I don't want to have anything to do with those people breaking windows in Seattle." The last protests I can think of that were effective were the marchers to Selma. Notice that they all wore church clothes.

One nice thing about living in this country is that you don't need to protest--you can just vote. It is highly effective and you can and should do it on a regular basis. Last fall's elections had an immediate effect on the administration--within weeks, Rumsfeld was gone. And within months, we were seriously conducting (and recently concluding) peace negotiations with North Korea. And if you still don't like how things are going, you get another chance in 2008.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the big triggers that are missing from your list are things that bring the cost of war home.

Drafting someone close to you.
Someone close to you being permanently injured as part of a war effort.
Someone close to you dying as part of a war effort.

Those are keys to mobilizing people to protest. That's why people who want to reduce the number of wars we fight should support a military with the draft.

7:52 AM  
Anonymous Mike Jenkins said...

"Declaring war on a country that is manifestly not a threat to us."

We don't declare war anymore, but Sudan is manifestly not a threat to us and many people who oppose Iraq think that it is virtually a war crime not to use our military in Sudan. You haven't commented on this, but it would seem consistent with your beliefs. Is it really the (perceived) lack of threat that makes Iraq/Iran seem so bad?

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I basically agree with the order of your list, but there seems to be a point on your list where it may be necessary to lay down your protest sign and pick up a gun. At what point would you be willing to do that?

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people are less likely to physically protest right now because it is obvious that Bush does not have support from the Senate or the populus. It is hard to become indignant when everyone agrees with you.

Justin's point is enormous. Add Eminent Domain, the Patriot Act, etc. Most people don't seem to mind the loss of their rights. That frightens me more than a war, but people treat you like a paranoid freak if you mention it. I'm afraid to get on a plane, not because I think it will crash or be terrorized, but because I am afraid to relinquish almost every right I have in order to get somewhere that I don't need to be.

Lately you've been posting a lot about traveling, but I seem to recall you disparaging travel at one point. Or was it just people that act as if travel is the end-all-be-all?

-dithers

9:05 AM  
Blogger ScottM said...

It is very tough to pick a point, when we leave off whether it works. If my protesting was 100% effective, I'd probably protest every night. (Certainly easier than, you know, governing the place.)

To protest: Declaring war on a country that is manifestly not a threat to us. I hope I'd go beyond protesting by the time we hit the internment camp level.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Just people that act as if travel is the end-all-be-all.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline Passey said...

I used to go to anti-war protests but it seemed to me that the anti-war movement had been taken over by communists (the last rally I went to had more anti-capitalism signs and literature than anti-war signs and literature) and I don't want to support them.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous sfg said...

The draft would mobilize protests very effectively. Short of that...nothing, the Democrats are too craven. The problem is that this country really is too bloody conservative.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous sfg said...

But I'd think twice about supporting the draft. We've only lost 3,000 people and the country's pretty tired of the war. In Vietnam we lost 55,000. Volunteer armies do tend to keep the size of the conflict down.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

2, 4, 8, 9 and 10.

..and probably a couple others with clarification. But, as written, the above.

6:26 AM  
Blogger bobvis said...

This is the only one that would do it:
"Our government disappearing your family."

It isn't that I'm lazy. It isn't that I'm not easily offended by what the government does either. I just generally have a fear of what can happen in political protests. Pre-911, I think I would have protested upon a lot of the stuff. Since then, however, there is a lot more distrust of my skin color, so I don't want to do anything that would capture the eyes of the authorities. Maybe that is paranoid and irrational, but that is how I feel at present.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't say exactly what would get me on the street protesting, but many of those would do.

The question for me is of organizing my life around it. To some extent, I want to make it my full time work to help fix all of those whats-wrong-with-how-we're-governed things. But even when I was doing that, in the form of working full time on a campaign to help swing the senate away form the incumbent party, I sometimes had a feeling of small impact, and at other times felt hugely important.

I think one of the main questions is how change can happen, and I think education and discussion are huge points (and are hugely missing. National dialogue? On what, pop "idols"?). I'm not sure standing outside protesting is as effective, but then if it stirs that dialogue, then yeah, I guess it is. And there should be more of it, for lesser evil conduct.

I agree with the commenters that voting is a huge part of what we can do. We're given a socially acceptable (it's not just for the extremists and wackos) way to protest and speak politically every year/every few years. And not nearly enough people do it.

7:46 AM  

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