Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Just Like One Of Us?

You often hear that anti-war protesters are ordinary people just like you and me who are out in the street expressing their views as concerned citizens. Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune featured a puff piece (it was in the Variety section) called Faces of protest: Antiwar Minnesotans come from all walks of life which profiled a few members of the anti-war crowd:

They aren't just students or perennial malcontents. They're professionals, teachers, parents, veterans, senior citizens, kids, homeowners and homemakers. Here is some insight into why a few have left their sofas and taken to the streets.

You see? Ordinary folk just like the rest of us.

The first peaceniks we learn about are three thirteen year old girls from St. Paul and in their defense at least their juvenile anti-war arguments are age appropriate:

"I think the people who are for the war are teaching us that fighting is good to get what we want," Libby said. "Because there's a problem we can't solve by talking we have to do it by fighting, and I think the people who are against the war are realizing more that it's better to talk things out rather than fighting."

Actually she makes a more coherent statement here than about 95% of the anti-war crowd could so let's give her extra credit. And she and her friends grew up in homes just like us right?

All three are growing up in households where peace and social action are stressed. Nora's parents are Quakers. Nick's grandparents used to pull his father out of school to go to antiwar demonstrations. His uncle was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Libby's parents always tried to keep her informed and invited her to demonstrations for various causes.

Hmmm... My parents used to pull me out of school to go to baseball games and I think to see the Freedom Train back in '76. My uncle was an Air Force pilot who spent six years in a POW camp in North Vietnam. My parents taught me to appreciate American history and politics and always stand up and take off my hat during the national anthem.

Then we get a very revealing explanation from one of the kids:

It was wonderful," Nora said. "I really want to go to more because it really makes you feel like you're not just a little kid and you can't do anything, like you can actually help the world. I didn't really feel the cold, even though my fingers were numb. You just feel righteous."

And that's what it's really all about isn't it? Feeling righteous. She reveals the motivations of the vast majority of the anti-war crowd with that one simple sentence.

Next, we meet a mother from St. Paul who drags her 11 year old son to anti-war demonstrations. Her background is a little bit different from the girls:

Selby's family didn't talk about politics when she was growing up. She voted as soon as she could, but never felt knowledgeable enough to take a stand.

But now she does right? She took the time to study the issues and form her own opinions? Not exactly...

As the current conflict plays out, Selby says she feels the United States is wrong. A friend forwarded an e-mail from Nina Utne, owner of the Utne Reader, about the fledgling organization Code Pink, which calls women to stand up for peace.

"In Code Pink, I found courage to be willing to take a stand even if I didn't have all the answers, and that was a real turning point," Selby said. "This is really the first time I've been active in my whole life."

The great thing is I don't even have to think for myself anymore. I don't have all the answers. In fact I have very few. But I don't need to. Code Pink allows me to lose my identity in a group, tells me what's right and wrong, and makes me feel good because I'm "active".

Then it's on to the average older couple next door, The Bernekings:

Social action has become an integral part of life for Bill and Nancy Berneking. At 59 and 63, respectively, they have become more liberal, even radical, as they have aged.

With guidance from their church, St. Luke Presbyterian in Wayzata, they cut their political teeth on the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s and learned to take a stand in the Sanctuary movement, sheltering and advocating for political refugees from El Salvador.

Just like Grandma and Grandpa eh? Thank God we're not dealing with any "perennial malcontents" here.

"Over the years, I've become more and more convinced that war is wrong in all cases, that we can't as humans survive if we don't figure out a way to live in this world without war being a significant part of what we do as countries," Bill Berneking said.

Catch that one? War is wrong in all cases. For Bill this isn't about "providing enough evidence" or "giving the inspectors more time". He's against war no matter what the circumstances are. He was against Afghanistan. He was against the first Gulf War. If Saddam and Osama teamed up to detonate a radiological bomb in D.C. he'd be out in the street protesting any military action. I guess you gotta give him credit for being honest about it.

Finally, we meet a young Somali woman:

I don't know what will happen, but I'm assuming that if they attack, there will be a lot of innocent people, and most of them will be women and children," she said. "I've been separated from my family, and I don't want to see other kids that are suffering, separated from their family."

She must have just read the latest Molly Ivins column predicting massive civilian causalities in Iraq. Of course we know how accurate Molly was in her Afghanistan predictions.

She doesn't want to see the United States create the kind of conditions that drove her family out of Somalia, and it's important to her to help her fellow immigrants understand that they must share their experiences to help their new country.

"I've had that experience, and I don't want it to happen anywhere else," she said. "We shouldn't do it. . . . As people who have experienced war, we're supposed to speak up."

Interesting. Maybe it's just me but I would think the experience of living in Somalia would give one reason to sympathize with the plight of the Iraqi people. Under Saddam Hussein. It seems as if the vast of majority of Iraqis who have fled Iraq support the war because they know first hand how bad it really is. It's also interesting that the only time in recent memory when there was any sort of stability or peace in Somalia at all was when US troops were there helping ensure the distribution of relief supplies. I guess we're just fortunate to have immigrants like her here to "help" us understand.

So there you have it. Just regular folks. The people next door. Just like you and me?

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