Friday, January 16, 2009

Time for Civility

Like other lucky Washingtonians, I got invited to an event this weekend. Well, actually an eight year old activist in training handed me a flyer on my way down the Dupont Circle Metro. It looks like this:

The website of the rally cum shoe throwing organized by the Kennebunks Peace Department, the Washington Peace Center, Code Pink, After Downing Street, Arrest Bush 2009, the Backbone Campaign, the DC Statehood Green Party, Our Spring Break, Progressive Democrats of America and others, explains:
We will be acting in the spirit of Mutadhar Al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference “on behalf of the widows, orphans and all those killed in Iraq,” and in solidarity with the Iraqi people as well as all of those who gave their lives for a war based on a lie.

To watch Bush leave office and not be held accountable for war crimes and impeachable offenses is like rubbing salt into the wound. Congress wouldn’t hold Bush accountable but The People may get the last word. Let’s help ensure that Bush’s legacy is not being spun in the history books as something different than reality.

This action may not take away all of the pain suffered during the Bush regime but we will get satisfaction from the statement the act makes. The shoe hurling will be a historic marker. The visual of thousands of people hurling shoes at the White House as Bush leaves office will go around the globe and the people all over the world will let out a collective cheer. Please join us in being part of history!

The protesters also throw the sabaton at Obama:

We have a president-elect who can save himself from engaging in criminal wars and occupations, in torture and other war crimes, in warrantless spying and other violations of our Constitution, only by prosecuting the actions of his predecessor. Not to prosecute is itself a crime. If we are going to persuade the president elect, we must first persuade the U.S. media, and the U.S. media is not attracted by facts and information. The U.S. media is attracted by throwing shoes.

Now I won't miss Bush one bit, but is this necessary? He will be gone as of 12:01 p.m. the day after this spectacle. Other than fundamentalists and conservatives in denial, there is consensus that he was a bad president who caused a lot of pain, squandered trillions of dollars, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands. He incited strife among us and inspired many to kill Americans and their allies. No matter how many times he and his minions declare that history will judge him kindly, it won't.

Why not harness this anger and frustration towards celebrating and supporting Obama and his administration? While a mob throwing shoes at the White House might be amusing and will get the attention these folks are banking on, it will not take away the pain. It will not accomplish anything. No minds will be changed, no policies enacted. Rather than waste time and stoke anger, why not apply pressure on Congress and the next President to help widows and orphans rebuild their lives? Why not advocate for measures that will avoid another over reaching presidency and omnipotent vice presidency?

I am all for dissent and action, but towards some tangible goal. And after eight years of incivility, isn't it time we try to be civil to one another? Yes, even to W.

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