Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let's get unpopular

Music for the moment: "White People For Peace" by Against Me!

"The people sang protest songs to try and stop the soldier's gun"

Let's say some things to make me unpopular today.

Let's get political.

This won't sit well for those of you with children, or those of you who are a few years younger than me...

but I really think we need to reinstate the draft.

Because the youth of today doesn't feel threatened enough to make a difference.

We were at the Warped Tour a little bit ago. Against Me! played this song there, and the kids sang along. "The people sang protest songs to try and stop the soldier's gun." After the show, they went home and played video games or whatever the kids are doing these days.

They played video games while other kids the same age or just a little older than them are fighting in a war that they don't want to be in. A lot of them have been "stop-lossed" and are fighting over there for their second or third time.

A lot of these kids signed up for the army because it was a ticket out of poverty, to get an education. A lot of them were simply duped by recruiters. Some of them are there out of duty, too, feeling like they are doing the right thing. I'm in no position to tell them otherwise, sitting at a computer thousands of miles away, blogging out of self-righteous indignation.

But I can chastise the lily white suburban kids, playing video games and talking about how the war is bad.

This war is vastly unpopular, but where are the gatherings in the streets? Where are the peaceful marches on the mall in Washington?

In the '60s, not that I was there, bands played protest songs and the people responded. Where is the response today? Where are our John Sinclairs and Pun Plamundons?

(Side note - I met Sinclair and Plamundon at a reading last year. Both are still charismatic powerful speakers, and they're still speaking out.)

Bands like Anti-Flag, Against Me! and Valientt Thorr are playing songs that should have the kids united and charging into the streets, demanding an end to what's going on in Iraq, an unjust war being perpetrated by a bunch of old suits who are making a lot of money.

They won't. They're too complacent.

If we had a draft, maybe they'd get off their asses (speaking of which, at the Warped Tour, the child obesity problem was also very evident; there were large numbers of teens who are in really rough shape) and get into the streets and protest. Maybe they'd be burning their draft cards and heading to Canada rather than being shipped off to fight and possibly be killed in war they didn't agree with.

Right now, there's no risk of that, so it's easier to do nothing.

I think the government knows this, and finds it easier to repeatedly risk the lives of the troops they already have, rather than face the wrath of hoards of angry teens, backed up by their angry soccer moms, holding signs that declaring that "war is for the poor," that their kids shouldn't be called from West Bloomfield to go fight, because they're needed to take over the family banking business.

Then again, what do I know? I'm as guilty as they are. I'm not out there either. I'm just blogging about it. How's that for complacency?

Moving on... but staying political... let's talk about Critical Mass.

Critical Mass is another group I strongly believe in, and I get some flack from other cyclists who disagree with them. Granted, their methods may not be always sound, but their motives are pure.

Critical Mass is a cycling group, built around two ideas:

1. Cyclists don't impede traffic - they ARE traffic.
2. For a cyclist, there is safety in numbers.

With this in mind, they meet monthly in cities all over the world, in groups as large as 1,000, to ride.

In some places, this has lead to clashes with the authorities, like in this case that happened in NYC last Friday:

The cop singled the guy out, and bam!

That's assault.

The cyclist is a 29-year-old activist and an army veteran. The cop is a 22-year-old who's been on the force for all of three weeks, and made an official statement that the cyclist rode his bike straight into him, knocking them both down and causing a “laceration” on his arm.

I'm guessing he didn't know there was video.

Originally, the cyclist was charged with a few things and held for 24 hours. The video was posted anonymously on Youtube. There is now an internal investigation going.

This is part of the reason police kind of scare me. Granted, I've known a lot of cool cops, but it only takes one cop who wants to be a prick, and your life could be over. This cop could have made this guy's life hell by lying and filing assault charges, if we didn't live in the Internet age, anyway.


Jennifer said...


I really needed a fellow unpopularist today, so thank you.

As a 46-year old American, I agree with you. As Moose's mommy, I'd rather not see the draft reinstated. He's got enough scarage from just living life and doing the occasional stupid thing while drunk (like the time he approached the couple in the park for a cigarette and ended up getting hammered on the head and back with stilettos}.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I've had those recruiters in my home, showing my kid the pretty, glamorous pictures, making the promises Segue still assures us are all false. I've never stood in the way, even when the testosterone surges seemed to be beginning to believe those slick-talking men in uniform. I have said, "The problem with enlisting, or even joining as an officer through ROTC, is that you relinquish your right to choose. You might not go to Afghanistan, you might get sent to Iraq. Your only job would be to follow command, even when command isn't smarter or wiser or more just than you are."

Kids these days, I think, see more readily through the bullshit than kids who came of age when my parents did. I also think that seeing through the bullshit is why so many of them are disengaging from life and engaging instead with contrived, electronic realities. That, and where are their parents? Working three jobs between them to pay the mortgage...no time to parent -- no time to parent poorly, even. The Red Formans are ancient history. He was a piece of work, but he was at least around for dinner to let the kids know, in his inimitable style, that he kind of gave a damn.

Moose hadn't had a meaningful thump on the forehead from his dad since he was ten years old. I don't mean that in a blaming way; times is what times is, and everybody's gotta work for a living.

On a more hopeful note, I have to say, I am pleased and impressed, because every time I stop in at the Dem's HQ to pick up or drop off work I'm doing for them, there are teens and twenty-somethings there. Last night I was called to work a voter registration drive by a 16 year old girl. She didn't know who she was calling, she was just dialing from a list of possible volunteers. I'd seen her last Wednesday, at the gallery, standing up in front of a standing room only crowd large enough to give me hives (I don't do well with public speaking) explaining what she was doing for the campaign and why, as well as why everyone else who cared to see a change in the way the country is run ought to get involved too.

SHE inspires me. SHE gives me hope. She's 16.

What people don't realize is that the time commitment is minimal, and flexible. It takes an hour to host a Unite for Change meeting. It takes two hours between 6 and 9pm to work a phone bank. Registering voters is a couple of hours at the beach, a walk in the park, attending an outdoor concert or art fair, walking around a festival, carrying a clipboard and a pen. All it takes is the willingness to ask a complete stranger, "Hey, are you registered to vote?" and the understanding that 1 in fifty will actually fill out the form. It takes an understanding that that 1 in fifty is critical to the success of a grassroots movement for change.

So, if you're posting about what disgruntles you, that's good. If you're taking it a step further and supporting whichEVER candidate you believe is more in tune with your way of thinking, that's even better.

If you support the candidate who is using public funds and has twice the money as the candidate who is not using public funds, you can afford to sit back and blog your opinion to your heart's content. If you're thinking the other guy makes more sense, he needs you, not your money. He needs you to register voters and call strangers on the phone and ask them what they're thinking, and he needs you to invite your like-minded friends and neighbors over for some networking so they might decide that what you're doing is worth their time, too.

The second video turned my stomach.

The first one was excellent, but, you know, I'm an old fart, so I'm saving my pennies for the new Springsteen CD :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the draft — I do know that there are two reasons we don't have one, and both suck: first, we have too many reservists and (maybe more importantly) national guard over there. Hence, the nonexistent response to Katrina. Second, Blackwater and such like to tout the fact that they "keep the draft off the table." That's lovely and all, but they're also armed mercenaries with no accountability for the shit they do in Iraq or anywhere.

As for cops, I've known a few that were ok, but to me something like that isn't too unexpected. Especially for a young guy like that, being an ass and whatnot. Maybe he transferred from Pontiac?