Wednesday, October 26, 2005

vigils: power or futility?

Mecom Fountain, 6:30 p.m., tonight October 26, 2005

There are nationwide vigils tonight mourning the 2,000th life lost in Iraq (2000 U.S. military lives, of course. There've been estimates that the Iraqis have lost anywhere between 10,000 and 37,000 lives in this war) and whenever I mention this, I always hear the question what is the point of having a protest at all?
Well, it's not like the vigils are going to change national policy overnight. And it is always tempting to reduce such activities as impotent stands by a bunch of hippie fanatics. But most modern social and political change, regarded as historically successful or beneficial, has woven into it's beginnings protests such as these.
This is, after all, the week of Rosa Park's death. At the very least, we should not be giving up our seat to an injustice, just because the majority don't agree or are too afraid to speak up. As opposed to hiding behind internet donations or grumbling in private conversations, the act of standing up in public (or remaining seated, whatever makes the statement) is a powerful symbol. Often as unsettling to those that demonstrate as it is to those that drive by.
2752 lives were lost on 9/11. What happens when we match that number with U.S. military deaths in Iraq? Because everyone knows that is what this is really about. A war to avenge the loss of American life in the 9/11 WTC attack. Whether the attackers and Iraqi leaders were directly connected or not (not). Whether there were weapons of mass destruction or not (not). Whether Bush told the truth or not (you fill it in). So what will we have proven? We can kill our own (and others) with as little justification as al-Qaeda?
This war has always been a huge mistake. We have proven nothing and have earned the widespread disgust and disapproval of most of the civilized world. Tens of thousands of lives have been brutally, and meaninglessly lost. "W" is for wrong.
P.S. The rally was small (less than the 150 signed up, I would estimate) but earnest. Most people just drove by. Many honked and gave us the peace sign. A few flipped us off or swore at us. Altogether a gratifying exercise of freedom of expression by all.

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