WASHINGTON — When anarchists attend an organized event, there can be no doubt that their defiance of logic (among other things) would be shared virulently (or virally) throughout. So it was with the great demonstrations in the District, and elsewhere, this weekend. The list of collaborators on this suspiciously untitled parade is too great to mention, but the range wanders from catchy acronyms like “A.N.S.W.E.R.” to the murky and self-importantly titled, “United for Peace and Justice.” The titles, indicative of the celebration of irony, were empty — the march probably hurt more than it helped.
It was obvious that no one was turned away. If you were an angry citizen, or an even marginally annoyed immigrant, you were required to join in, as the mentally disturbed organizers were clearly in no position to judge. At this point, why not break out the down-with-capitalism signs? Why not draw the obscure Hitler-Bush comparison? And while you’re at it, why not have a 10-hour rock concert next to the Washington Monument?
My tour of the festivities took me across Lafayette Square, inhabited only by a blind man with a poster detailing the little-known dealings of the “CIA pedophile mafia” (just Google it). His position was prominent, right in front of the White House, in eyesight of the cleaning lady vacuuming the Oval Office carpet. Not far away was Billionaires-for-Bush, in full black-tie regalia, adding to the hypothesis that the purpose of this demonstration was to make good on excessive pre-election expenditures. These folks are getting plenty of mileage out of their posterboard, and when else are they going to get to dress up?
As we walked against the crowd down Madison Place, I noted that my compatriots included a Republican from New York, and a Democrat from Jersey. Sure enough, the former and I were having a great time — the Democrat, my roommate, seemed fairly miserable. And why not? Standing before him was the devolution of his political sentiments, scattered into a throng of morbid, prefab slogans. Some were there to protest Israeli aggression against Palestinians (“We are all Palestinians”). Others were there to advocate an immediate pull-out (“End the war!”). Or to state their beef with war in general (“War is not good for children and other living things” — I think John Kerry coined the phrase). Others seemed intent on ridiculing the president, or anyone with decent sensibilities (“Bush and Hitler sitting in a tree, k-i-l-l-i-n-g”). Sure, we can take a moment to observe the evidence of how wonderful it is to live in America, but there comes a time when someone ought to take to the light switch, flick it on and off, and calmly say, “Shhhhh.” This used to be the role of the Democratic National Committee, now headed by Howard Dean. And they wonder why things aren’t going so well.
Many Republicans seize on this opportunity to hoot and holler, to laugh at the left’s truly pathetic inability to capture what could be a moral high ground. But how can they not? What is presented as serious is a worldview both broad and narrow, goals that are refused the opportunity to reconcile with means. Ones that signify nothing to the starving Ethiopian villager or the repressed Iranian dissident. It may warm their heart to know you are thinking of them, bleeding heart liberal, but where’s dinner? Where’s revolution? Where’s the help in the fight against the tyrannies they face? Where are the liberal freedom fighters in the clearly oppressive regimes that threaten the United States and humanity at large? They are sitting feet from the Washington Monument, dancing to Joan Baez as she sings one more song.
The liberals seemed fairly resigned to this image, sanctioning the ideological free-for-all by failing to clarify a positive message. There were plenty of alternatives to war on hand this weekend, but what could the left agree on? Standing amongst the horde of adolescents aged 18 and up, you would know that not even A.N.S.W.E.R. (with Malcolm X plastered all over their signs) had something for that question. Unless you were looking to impeach Bush. One man with a megaphone, joined by two brave souls, held their own counter-protest, holding signs that said “Trust Jesus.” Many had trouble understanding his rationale for saying, “Terrorists are bad people, and we should kill them.” So much for being constructive.
Here are a few of the posters: “Bring them home,” “Did your boy kill my baby?” “Stop the Cycle of Military and Economic Violence,” “No more lies or spin” (on a baby carriage), “College not combat!” “Who would Jesus bomb?” “Bush go home!”, “Iraq Veterans against the war,” “Republicans against the war,” and most restrained, “Some of us are motivated moderates against Bush not against war in general and supportive of action against terrorism and oppression but vehemently opposed to the Bushhit [sic] approach.”
It all makes you wonder whether or not it is misleading to call it an “organized” protest. Perhaps this is why the anarchists attend — their presence is indicative of intellectual bankruptcy. Such philosophical incogitance only says, “why not?” The only grand protest right-wingers attend, the March for Life, might have one or two Grim Reapers touting chains of baby-heads, but at least the topic is clear and the argument is grounded even if the delivery is askew. By contrast, this march is embarrassing, since someone didn’t have the decency to shuffle some of these poor, clearly unwell people into a corner somewhere to stay out of trouble. But there Al Sharpton was, police escort in tow.
The Democratic Leadership Council must be searching their closets for brooms to sweep such activists under the carpet. Or, they may realize that they are in just the perfect position. Cast in a moderate light by comparison, Hillary Clinton will garner some interest dissociated from her base. It remains her base, however, and sooner or later, she will have to recognize that. When she is defeated in her bid for the presidency, someone will have to explain that it’s the party, stupid.