Friday, January 21, 2005

I'm back

After about 48 hours of unadulterated wrath brought on by the inauguration, I have rediscovered my sense of humor. When they take my hope or my sense of humor, they've won. Some days they get the latter; they rarely get both. A keenly honed sense of the absurd is an absolutely necessary mixer for my rage cocktail. I can never take venom straight.

Strangely, going to the protest and march last night didn't really make me feel better. For one thing, there weren't enough people. When you grow up in Washington, D.C., you don't realize that in most other places in the world, people don't come in from across the country when there's a rally. For another thing, I got into a bit of morose reflection when I realized that I've been marching since before two of the compadres that joined me last night were born. I was lucky to grow up in an activist family, where singing songs and carrying signs was part of my birthright. I love that about my family, and some of my enduring memories are rooted in pickets and protests--including my great regret that, at eight years old, I freaked out so much when my sister and her friends coached me on the way to an impeach Nixon rally ("If the police are coming, run away so they don't hit you with their sticks..."), that I started weeping somewhat hysterically ("I'm afraid of the tear gas!") and we went home instead.

But I digress. The point here is that it just felt futile last night to me for a brief stretch of time. Chanting "the people united can never be defeated," and I'm thinking we've chanted that for decades and it ain't getting any better folks. And then there were the people with their teeny kids all big eyed holding their signs and candles. And the veterans.

I stayed and I marched and cried and chanted: "Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like..."

And once again, I wondered how to survive the next four years without committing homicide or losing my mind. I know that I need to connect myself with something. Blogging is good because I feel my virtual community around me--all of us out here breaking these binary rocks until the kingdom comes--but I need something else local. At the march I thought to myself: I'm not an anarchist, and I'm not a pacifist, and I'm not a Democrat. I don't believe we will have a revolution and I'd rather not spend the next four years spitting into Capitalism's wind. I'm happy to align my efforts with any and all of the above, and I feel a deep respect for and kinship with the pacifist/ anarchist/ liberal/ whatevers of the world (except when they are drenched with patchouli, at which point my fellow feeling dwindles), but my time and energy are so limited I'd like to use them where I feel most passionately.

So today I am sitting at my desk posting pictures of weeping Iraqi children and generally nurturing my bitterness so that it will reach full flourish, and I look up and see the Camus quote on my bulletin board: "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." And I decide to climb out of my hole. Camus' Sisyphus is one of my all time heroes. At my best, I try to follow his example and just keep rolling the rocks up the hill and feel happy (or satisfied) because it gives my life purpose.

The latest rocks I am contemplating rolling? Well, I thought a lot about that "where do I fit" question last night. I was disappointed that the counter-inaugural was largely an anti-war protest. Don't get me wrong. I hate this fucking war with everything I can muster. Just as I hated the last war where we "bombed them back to the middle ages"--a condition they seem to have rectified in merely a decade. But I am even more anti-Bush than I am anti-war. That is to say, what disturbs me the very most about this administration is their disdain for the law, most fundamentally the Constitution. I know this is nothing new, but it seems to me their contempt is different in its application. These are folks who wouldn't even bother erasing the tapes. They would either 1.claim that "after 9/11 everything has changed," 2.make an academic argument that the law allows their actions, or 3.change the law.

So I'm mulling some options. It seems the SFV chapter of the ACLU is getting active. I'm going to go to their screening of Unconstitutional, a documentary about the Patriot Act. Maybe there will be work they are doing that seems right.

I'm also mulling the idea of resurrecting the broadside. (Know that in addition to a general fan, I am also an academic geek about the Constitution, having written my dissertation about the framing, the flag, and 18th C. pop culture.) I've been thinking about some of the comment-thread discussions on blogs I've had lately and the conversation I had in the airport during the airline sick-out. Sometimes people just don't have the facts or simply haven't considered a perspective. The women at the airport had never thought about how much a CEO makes relative to the union workers who were calling in sick, and they'd never asked themselves whether upper management was sharing the load in terms of pay cuts. One short conversation changed their whole way of looking at labor disputes. Blogs are wonderful. I love my weblog. I am a researcher at heart and I love reading transcripts and excerpting them and just generally mouthing off. But for the most part this is a preaching to the choir proposition. It sustains me, but what if once a month or so "the committee to resurrect the Constitution" (i.e., me and whatever friends I could strong arm into joining me) printed a bunch of really snazzy looking one-page, front-and-back info sheets on some topic in the news and just left them places--Starbucks tables, shopping mall benches... Just another thing I am turning over in my head.

And you know, I need to remember, one of those young friends with me last night had never been to a protest before, and she wouldn't have come were it not for me. And one of her friends came too. It's an incremental thing, isn't it? At least I'm not rolling rocks all by myself out here.

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