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Souls in the City
by Rachel Olivieri
August 29, 2004

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On the eve of the Republican National Convention, a plethora of activist groups with sharp anti-war axes to grind descend into the net of NY’s finest. Like an approaching angry tropical storm, the world braces for impact. Political weather prognosticators of all stripes presage its momentum, force and effect on the Presidential Campaign.

By early Sunday morning 8/29, nearly 400 protesters had experienced the metallic taste of arrest and detention. Although predominately an anti-Bush protest, soft Kerry supporters bear signs scripted with Kerry’s Vietnam-era remark: “How do you ask a soldier to be the last person to die for a lie?” He has forgotten or perhaps he never understood.

The week prior to the start of the RNC Convention, DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe, proclaimed, “Let me be crystal clear. I'd like to draw a line in the sand. We (DNC/Kerry) have nothing to do with the (RNC Convention) demonstrators.”

McAuliffe’s declaration suggests an implied linguistic redundancy since Kerry’s pro-war position is co-primer for anti-war mobilization. Kerry gambled on the Anybody But Bush fear wave to usher his campaign to the shores of power. He may find that wave a ball-buster ride that may very well collapse around him. Disingenuously dismissing his (natural) anti-war support base during the Democratic Platform, Kerry is not likely to unearth much sympathy from soft supporters.

McAuliffe, sealing the Kerry vacuum from the protestors and perhaps his political coffin in the process declared, “We want the Republicans to have their convention in peace. We want them to have the same kind of peaceful convention that the Democrats held up in Boston.”

One would have to wonder where in this war torn world anyone could find PEACE. To suggest peace existed in Boston and can be found in New York is stupidity looking for a candidate finding Bush/Kerry both perfectly available. Buy one war candidate, get the other free, is the compromised theme of this election.

The respected Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer, speaking days before the Democratic National Convention in Boston last July, cautioned moral activist protesters with, “The immediate need is to defeat Bush. But to do that, to do that, we have to reach the middle. And the only way we can reach the middle at this late date is that if we're extraordinarily peaceful in our demonstrations before the election.”

Here again Mailer’s ABB fear factor discounts moral reason and yields to ANYBODY apparently, with or without a soul since the cause does not consider one. Of course, with a corporate owned deck of presidential cards and a corporate dealer, our hand comes up four-of-a-kind Kerry whose ownership of a moral soul remains hidden somewhere between his anti-war speech in the 70s and his pro-war position today.

Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, had this comment on a recent edition of Democracy Now!: “If people protest [in NY], they should do so exactly as Mailer said, in a dignified way, in a way that does not recruit voters for George W. Bush.” 

What? Dignity? Dignify indignation? Dignity; cynical dismissal of the glib, by the glib, for the glib?  They marched with passive dignity in NY and all wondered of their honored silence?  Hundreds of thousands gave up their normal weekend of Bush consumerism and flocked to NY to dignify non-recruitment of Bush voters? 

America, a nation faced with social division, economic inequality, broad based threats to constitutional rights, media dominated fear campaigns, racial and gender discrimination and issueless election . . . find dignity in your indignation. One might sooner hold back the tide than evaporate indignation into dignity. Each argument supports its own logic draped in its own brand of bias however, I submit, to surrender moral indignation in the name of Professor Gitlin’s rationalized dignity is to serve fear and become meaningless.

Let’s recheck the short list of the geopolitical world map. Anti-heroes Bush and Kerry stand poised as war masters to project US intimidation worldwide. Palestinians bear the genocidal yoke of Mad Dog Sharon. Iraqis die by the thousands under occupational democracy. Afghanistan lives in a failed peace. Civilians of Darfur, Sudan are raped and killed while the UN dignifies diplomacy to save them. Millions of African AIDS victims see no end to the long days of dying.

Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author of Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, debated the NY protest issue with Gitlin on Democracy Now. Klein’s pro-protest argument centered in her remark, “I’m really much less interested in stopping George Bush than in stopping a war.” Klein also disagreed with the notion that the protest was unrelated to Democrat Kerry.

Klein support to her position was, “Precisely because the Democrats have really sealed off the possibility of just expressing our opposition to the war by voting. This is not Spain. They are running on a hugely militaristic campaign. They're promising to continue the occupation, even expand the occupation of Iraq. So we need to be in the streets.”

Bush and Kerry’s defiance of the anti-war majority consensus forces the opposition’s hand and renders the warlords accountable and dismissible for their positions. Let the protest demonstrate that Americans no longer sleep.

They both need to witness an unpredictable spiritual force misjudged and miscalculated in both degree and conviction. Let the protesters march in New York, and let the outcome be what it may. In many ways, what may come out of the protest is beyond thought and knowing. Let the intuitive side draw on its own wisdom, imagination and creativity to respond to the force that presumes to control it.      

We have no heroes save ourselves to resonate to the oppressed of the world. We have no heroes save ourselves to stand with moral indignation against the powerful injustice that blights the weaker elements of our world. They wait in the shadow of imperialist darkness looking for our light, our strength and our voice. Let them have it, for only a global effort will defeat the monster known as greed.

Too many years have Americans lived silently. Too many years, too many Americans have avoided the truth out of fear. Truth begs for the voice of dissent to turn into act and deed. Truth begs us to bring a liberating fire to oppressed civilizations, a fire that spreads freedom and democracy to all. The global consciousness waits for Americans to show they have the moral indignation to fight the terrible human cancer known as imperialistic wars, imperialistic domination.  The place they need to fight is here in America. New York is as good a place as any.

Rachel Olivieri is “not a writer, just a pissed off progressive.” She can be reached at:

Other Articles by Rachel Olivieri

* Surviving Bush: Kill the Buddha
* John Kerry Ain’t No Democrat