I just got back from the satellite Rally to Restory Sanity and/or Fear here in Chicago. I’ve been reading the confused articles leading up to the rally. Is it all about irony? Is it about moderation? Is it about progressive politics? Is this the millennial generation’s Woodstock?
After spending half an hour wondering around the edges of the rally here in Grant Park, it’s clear that those in attendance weren’t sure either. On the stage were Chicago progressive (trying their best to show enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference in challenging Chicago’s corrupt politics) competing with a Chicago comedians making jokes about sandwiches.
Alongside the stage was a muted jumbotron showing Comedy Central’s live coverage of the D.C. rally. The most unifying cry the crowd could get behind while I was there was shouting, “Audio! Audio!” when Jon Stewart came on screen. That’s right: They’d come to stand with thousands of other people in the middle of Grant Park on a beautiful October day so that they could all watch television together. And the funny thing is that they weren’t trying to be ironic.
Meanwhile, I saw some of my radical activist acquintances working the crowd for the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression to get out the word about FBI harassment of peace activists. I didn’t get the sense this was a hostile audience for them, but it didn’t seem particularly receptive either.
Eventually the Chicago rally hosts turned the audio on so we could watch Ozzy Ozborne interrupt Yusuf Islam singing Peace Train. Then they turned off the audio and went back to gamely trying to keep the audience’ attention here in Chicago. To which the audience let loose a round of boos. Don’t take away our television! It was a rally of dueling causes at many levels.
It was clear that there were lots of photographers and journalists sent to cover the rally. There were relatively few people signs or costumes, but everyone who did seemed to have a photographer standing next to them taking down names. This is one of those events that the “mainstream media” doesn’t know what to do with, but knows they have to be there.
Maybe the problem is that I’ve been jaded by attending so many rallies, protests and vigils where people actually care about stuff. Yep, that’s definitely my problem. What I really need is to get into the spirit of this zombie Abe Lincoln taking photos of the rally with his iPhone while holding his McDonald’s cup:
I guess if what you were looking for was funny signs and costumes, you would have been quite at home. Here are the ones I could find:
Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled
Of course everything is ok… Let’s just all go back to our shopping and ignore what’s going on around us. :-)
Can I derail this? You make one comment here that is a little out of place:
“Meanwhile, I saw some of my radical activist acquintances working the crowd for the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression to get out the word about FBI harassment of peace activists.”
A lot of people don’t know about this. About 10 years ago there was a peace activist in Towson, MD whose name escapes me. He was a young college kid who protested the new war in Iraq when that was getting started. He had a ‘Zine and a considerable web presence. In fact, he reminds me a lot of you (Tim N.. Our relationship was similar too :) ) Anyway, the FBI started tailing him, sitting outside his house in their car, and just generally following him around. They knocked on his door one day to ask him some questions.
I was listening to talk radio one day (Baltimore Libertarian, Ron Smith, WBAL 1090 AM) and he had an ex-FBI guy on talking about this sort of thing. I called in and told them this story. The FBI guy is like “If the FBI wants to spy on you or tail you they know perfectly well how to do it without letting you know. They’re smart. The only reason to let the mark know you are doing it is to intimidate you.”
So this makes me ask: “Who gave the orders?” It’s easy to not think about the internal conversations. But someone with some authority at the FBI had to tell the goons “Look, this guy might be trouble. Go shake him up.” Which begs the question “Why?” Were they scared of him being a left-wing terrorist? Possibly. Still, while radical left-wingers are known for petty and major vandalism it’s not like they are doing it in droves. Certainly Baltimore’s murder rate is more dangerous, right?
And if some low-level manager gave the orders I have to think there is some high-level precedent to do exactly this, shake up community peace activists. So it’s gotta be on the books if this is going on nationwide. Essentially, it’s FBI policy, to not merely identify and track, but to INTIMIDATE what are traditionally left-leaning activists.
Anyway, I’ll stop there, I could type about this for hours.
My mental file of “inspiring peace stories to share” includes the image of Jon Stewart literally reaching across his desk to some Bush official, “let’s say there’s some things we agree on – you like ice cream, right?”, discussing flavors for a bit, and coming back to that every time emotion threatened to overturn dialog.
The man is a master of public communication, solidly in the traditional role of “the fool” from monarchies. He is aware that the tone of one’s comedy, more than anything else, indicates the amount of Life in one’s circle (I’d say the Jews preserved this better than Mennonites, but I remember the uproarious Low German exchanges for hours after extended family suppers). This is also the role reference for those who celebrate the Holy Joke of the resurrection.
Yes, the proposed tone of the rally was irony, whether in laughing at our own inability to listen even while we’re trying to dialog, or the role of fear in projecting strength, or subverting sanctimoniousness. Like any powerful 21st Century movement, it was a gathering of affinity groups, which could not be exactly replicated – each separate event its own character.
If nothing else, this speaks to another need in our search for whatever the world will call sanity (and remember that this may not be the goal of YARS) – our need to come with our own opinions, and then integrate with community.