Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood was a place for deep, profound questions about world affairs and the nature of democracy Monday evening. Questions like, does anything rhyme with “Halliburton”?
The event, called the “D.C. Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency,” was one of several “counter-inaugural” protests taking place throughout the week in the nation’s capital.
It was also neatly illustrative of why it’s George W. Bush, not John Kerry, who’s getting sworn in this week. Bush won in large part because conservative grassroots activists tend to be unified, focused, and determined.
Liberals, by contrast, are often disorganized and prone to expending a lot energy getting nothing in particular accomplished — something on vividly on display Monday evening.
The poetry read/inaugural protest drew the type of crowd you’d expect: Mostly white, college-aged kids in baggy pants and tattered clothing covered with anarchist symbols and patches and badges promoting every possible cause.
These “insurgents” apparently hold regular open-mike nights near a fountain that’s also a favorite hangout for the homeless. The event doubled as both a Martin Luther King Day celebration and an anti-Bush rally. That’s how your correspondent learned of it.
About three-dozen showed up to express solidarity, engage in free-form verse, dance as only white kids can dance and just generally chill.
And chill they did. It was so bitterly cold in Washington Monday that the official Martin Luther King Day parade was cancelled. It only got worse after the sun set.
The cold did not deter the insurgents, however, determined as they were to speak truth to power. Still there were moments when a few seemed to grasp that power was at home in front of a warm fire and therefore couldn’t hear what they said.
One poetess briefly channeled Admiral James Stockdale, asking: “What am I doing here? What am I accomplishing?”
The moment of introspection passed quickly when she broke into a show-stopping rendition of “Get The Bush Out.” (Presumably an original composition.)
More common was the kid who prefaced his work with a brief diatribe on the subject of civic responsibility.
“They say change can be made, just work through system. What kind of stupid s–t is that?” he said to applause and laughter.
That the war in Iraq was a conspiracy to promote some other nefarious agenda was taken as a given. So was the idea that Bush had somehow stolen the 2004 election, his 62 million votes notwithstanding.
“Democracy is in denial/ but your vote still counts on American Idol!” rapped another young poet.
Maybe it got better after that but your humble correspondent threw in the towel after about an hour.
A conspiracy-minded liberal might have wondered if Karl Rove himself had somehow organized the event since the main message seemed to be that participating in the system was for suckers.
Still, misguided as they were, they weren’t bad kids. One made an appeal for blankets, scarves and other items for the homeless, noting that some would probably freeze to death that night.
But they also represented the more self-destructive side of radical liberalism. As the evening showed they were more interested in thumbing their nose at authority than actually working to change it and more interested in partying than party building. That’s the funny thing about anarchists: they tend to be anarchic.
Thus their radicalism ultimately turns on itself: rather than do something constructive like register voters they do much more “edgy” things like hold open-mike poetry readings in sub-zero weather.
These are the people that liberals from Ralph Nader to Dennis Kucinich placed their hopes with and that others like Howard Dean hoped to ride to the top of the Democratic Party on. Is it any wonder that these efforts all came to grief?