News Commentary: March 20 protest will showcase dissent (3/04)

on Mar 16, 04 • by Andy Slater

The fluff and inanity is worse than boring — the silly escapism Hollywood embodies numbs the mind and encourages viewers to stick their heads in the sand. In this time of crisis, when artists should convey an alternative viewpoint, we seem to be experiencing a return to the 1950s, when actors and writers afraid of McCarthyism named names and neglected to make movies that came anywhere close to pushing the envelope.

The nation has not reached the depths of the witch hunts just yet, but a series of incidents may constitute a harbinger of things to come. According to the Feb. 27 episode of “NOW with Bill Moyers,” Miami police brutally suppressed a peaceful demonstration against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas last November. An elderly man, who came from a retirement community by bus, told his harrowing tale: The police told him and his wife to drop to the ground and then proceeded to beat them with a stick before arresting them and holding them in jail overnight.

Daniel Ellsberg, the heroic exposer of the “Pentagon Papers,” fears that the right to dissent may quickly become a thing of the past, according to an article in the Feb. 29 San Francisco Chronicle Magazine.

Thinking for yourself, not to mention actually taking action, is now subversive.

“I will be happily surprised if there isn’t a major terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next four years, and if Bush is in office, I think this country will shift to something very close to fascism,” Ellsberg told the Chronicle. “Ashcroft and Cheney will use an attack as an excuse to implement police controls far beyond any we’ve seen. That’s why we need to demand a return to the Constitution and Bill of Rights now, before it’s too late.”

Fear has crippled much of America, enabling the war machine to squelch those who dare to voice unpopular opinions and to ridicule those who ask unpopular questions. Thinking for yourself, not to mention actually taking action, is now subversive. Some may privately question the wisdom of the Power Elite and its Lackey-in-Chief. Unfortunately, the ominous beat of a thousand boots pounding the pavement in unison drowns out their lonesome pleas for a return to sanity.

But San Francisco, never a city to trim its sails, has resisted the power structure’s attempts to cow the nation into submission. Citizens refuse to “get over it” and “move on” from the 2000 election or the Enron bankruptcy or the lies about WMD in Iraq. And at 11 a.m. on March 20, the one-year anniversary of the bombs dropping, San Francisco will rise again. Thousands will gather at Dolores Park that morning to remind Bush and all his apologists that they have not forgotten the immorality of the War, and that they will continue to fight.

“I’m going to the protest March 20 to get our opinion out there for everyone to see,” senior Leo Miller said. “A lot of people say the government doesn’t care, but it’s the government’s job to serve its constituents. It should notice when thousands of people are marching to demand change.”

The media has devoted countless pages of newsprint and hours of television to the election-year horse race. But the real news is on the street, where long-ignored activists are building a movement to topple the system. If every individual is an equal citizen, then the machinations of rich old white men trying to pass themselves off as alternatives to the present regime should be less important than the dedicated resistance of thousands. A vibrant demonstration brimming with agents of change is more significant democratically than a campaign run of, by and for the elite.

“The campaign’s trying to put the war off to the side, but we need to continue to make it an issue,” senior Max Bien-Kahn said. “They’re taking about intelligence failures as if the war’s already over; the fact is that the war is still going strong and people are still dying.”

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