Friday, March 9, 2007

The Tacoma Protests are Tone Deaf and Dumb

Peace activists went to Tacoma this week to blockade the shipment of Stryker Brigade vehicles and other materials to soldiers in Iraq. According to organizers, the cops acted like a bunch of thugs, at least until the television cameras showed up.

This sort of thing is always disturbing. Cops beating up protesters is nothing new, but with the increased militarization of domestic policing, the contest has become considerably less sporting. Heavily armed cops in Darth Vader gear can't be a good thing for anybody.

That said, when I watch this footage of the Tacoma protest, I feel a little ill, and embarrassed for the left.

Troops and materials are being sent off to what is surely hell on earth. You don't have to agree with the war to understand that this is serious, solemn business.

While the press release I was sent asserts that "OUR ACTIONS ARE NOT AGAINST THE TROOPS," I don't believe most people will see it that way. Blockading materials headed for soldiers in the field is an act that offers little symbolic nuance.

At best, it seems ill-conceived and dumb. At worst, it comes off as traitorous.

Much of the left, though we've had plenty of opportunities to learn, still seems to be completely tone deaf. If we can't see ourselves as others do, then we have chosen to live in the dark. This is no way to build a movement.

The stakes these days are way too high to simply perform political theatrics as a self-indulgent assertion of moral superiority. It's ineffective, it's alienating, and it plays into the hands of the sociopaths who want this war the most.

1 comment:

Bruce Triggs said...

Hey Tim,

Well, I wrote an eloquent response here which just disappeared when I went to get a quote from "Letter from Birmingham Jail." (He objects to white moderates, but not their embarrassment, so you're in the clear there. I know you're no moderate.)

When I read your comments about anti-war activists in my old home town of Tacoma, I think of the suffragettes, who were violently attacked by sailors and soldiers when they protested during WWI. They were demonised as untimely and aggressively anti-patriotic, but they won the vote.

It doesn't matter if a lot of people doubt your tactics, as long as the people in power hear your voice. They really, really do not care if you march and sing. That can be fun, but it is not very politically powerful. But if you even pretend to block the trains and ships that carry the supplies that run the military, that directly threatens the makers of war.

If every community with a war-materiel production or transit point had even twenty people sit down when they see the trucks or trains pass every day, the war would slow. And the profiteers would worry, far more than if all those people write their congressperson.

I feel embarrassed for activists sometimes, but only because there's so few of them willing to do what they do. Not to say we can't be critical and propose better actions, but I hear there were 24 people arrested in Tacoma today, and I'm happy to hear that.