Monday, April 04, 2005

My First Demonstration

Last month, my friend Sima posted a list of demonstrations that would be held across the U.S. on the 2nd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Well, in all my years, I have never been to a demonstration, so I was curious. The demonstration was held, fittingly, in front of the Indianapolis War Memorial, and I must say that I was quite pleased that I went.

In all honesty, my personality is not particularly suited to publicly demonstrating. When I am in a crowd of strangers, I am inevitably an observer rather than a participant in whatever they are doing. However, in this case, I did feel more than a little kinship with these demonstrators. The main point of this demonstration was to express a strong desire for the U.S. troops to leave Iraq immediately. Some of my readers already know that I am quite doubtful regarding the wisdom of an abrupt pullout of American troops since Iraq's societal infrastructure has been badly damaged by the invasion and is still not very strongly reorganized. However, despite my misgivings about the demonstration's theme, I found that there were many things that the speakers were talking about that I could agree with. For example, America needs to stop wasting its precious human and financial resources "defending" its thirst for oil and instead put those resources into developing new technologies that will increase the energy efficiency of the many industries, vehicles, and living accomodations that our society depends on. In addition to using less oil, we need to invest in new sources of energy, particularly renewables like solar and wind power. Other things discussed that are very important to me were improving access to health care for all American citizens and saving Social Security. Just a small portion of what has been spent invading and occupying Iraq would have provided health insurance to millions of Americans who currently have none. So, I did indeed find a number of reasons to join with other demonstrators in applauding the various speaker's comments!

In between segments of speakers there were a few interludes reserved for entertainment. The featured guest, who is the subject of my third picture, goes by the stage name "George Shrub" and bills himself as the world's only singing CIA Agent. His songs and jokes were very funny and satirical jibes at Bush and his pack of Neo-Cons. I really enjoyed his performance!

For me, one of the most striking occurrences at the demonstration was when a man drove by and shouted "Get a Life!" I couldn't help feeling a profound sense of irony as I noticed the "Support our Troops" magnet affixed to the back of his gas guzzling Ford Excursion!

I would like to extend my thanks to Sima for helping me to have a very interesting day!


Blogger Sima said...

Dear David,
Thanks for sharing your first demonstration experience :O) I am glad you went. It seems like there were some good speakers. My experience with demonstrations in the SF Bay Area has been that it is preaching to the converted, as people are on the most part "progressive." Like you, at times, I agree with what the speakers have to say and other times, I disagree. But that is the spirit of coalition work. If we all agreed on every single point, the world would be a very boring place.
I grew up as a kid during the revolution in Iran, sneaking out of school and going to demonstrations during the revolution, and after the establishment of the Islamic government. In the beginning, the demonstration style in the U.S. was quite strange to me (the whole entertainment aspect of it!). But, I think as long as people show up in large numbers to show our opposition to this destructive war, differences of style do not matter.
Thanks for going out there. I will write about the Palestine exhibit after I go to it.
Take care,

4/04/2005 3:09 PM  
Blogger Ameer H. said...

Hi David, thanks for the comment, I still don't have the right feeling about writing something long, I tried a few times but after writing a few lines I just give up! And Golnessa is back in Iran now, I don't know when she will write again, thanks so much for remembering her. :) By the way, have you been in the show "Millionaire," recently?
I've heared that there was a demonstration here in LA too but I couldn't make it, I wish as you said, the world changes at least a little bit!

4/04/2005 11:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

Dear Sima,
Thanks for your comment. :) The world would indeed be a boring place if we all thought the same way! I just wish that more people could learn to peacefully disagree and stop feeling threatened by different thoughts and beliefs. I look forward to hearing about the Palestinian artist's exhibit.

Ameer, I think maybe you are trying to hard to write a certain way or perhaps you are too critical of your own style or choice of topics. I know that you are a person who has a lot of thoughts and ideas. If I may suggest, just write about something that is important to you. It doesn't matter what the topic is. Your readers want to get to know you better. Be honest with your thoughts and feelings. I am sure that your readers will like and appreciate you for the person that you are. :)
I am very curious about why you asked if I was on the "Millionare" show. I do sometimes watch the show, but I have never considered becoming a contestant. Maybe I should, I could certainly use some prize money! :) Did you see a contestant with a similar name or appearance?

4/05/2005 1:59 PM  
Blogger Jamak said...

Well I guess it's never too late to pick up a militant attitude. As an American though I'm sure there's more that you can do including contacting your local Senate representatives and also other forms of lobbying through education.
"Culture of fear" is a good book to read to understand what rights we have under our so called democracies and how we can benefot from them. However, our leaders instill a culture of fear in us which prevent us from standing up and making a statement.

4/05/2005 2:47 PM  
Blogger David said...

Jamak, the theme of the demonstration was decidedly anti-militant. :) However, I think I know what you are trying to say. Actually, I have been occasionally writing to my elected representatives for years. I'm not sure it helps because I can't affort to grease their greedy palms. However, it makes me feel better.

The "culture of fear" in America begins with public education. Children are taught to obey their teachers. Later in life these lessons translate into obedient workers. I have read about how aristocratic children are educated. They are treated like little emperors in their expensive private schools. The movie "Richie Rich" did an excellent and really funny parody of this sort of thing. I think that I was lucky. I actually had some teachers that encouraged critical thinking. However, I was always somewhat intellectually rebellious anyway. But, Bush's "no child left behind" crap forces schools to teach math and science at the expense of everything else. Bush wants the next generation of workers to be better prepared to take their place as technically skilled corporate automatons!

4/06/2005 1:03 AM  
Blogger Jamak said...

I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with you on that. There's a difference between discipline and your version of "culture of fear". If anything kids today lack that starting from their own homes. There has to be a sense of respect for authority in one form or another. But then that's open for debate as well.

4/06/2005 5:36 AM  
Blogger David said...

Jamak, it seems to me that every generation of people eventually come to believe that younger people are lacking in discipline. My mother told me stories of how her mother thought that Elvis would be the end of civilization. :) I suppose that my grandmother's mother thought the same thing about Big Band music!

4/06/2005 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way I see it, teaching children to be respectful (not only of authority, but of life in general), and encouraging them to think and act critically (in a respectful manner) are both necessary. The latter would only prepare future CITIZENS to act up to their name. A "culture of fear" would influence them less since they would already be used to respecting their own opinions as much as they respect others', to being attentive to what others say (the public/political discourse), and to taking a stand for what they believe in.


4/06/2005 10:47 PM  
Blogger David said...

Manuela, Your thoughts seem quite reasonable to me. :)

4/07/2005 11:55 PM  
Blogger Pantea said...

I agree with Manuela. Both should be considered. If you have critical thinking without respect for others it will turn out to be arrogance. As Manuela said, respecting children and teaching them to have self respect is the best way.

4/08/2005 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it's also the hard way :)


4/09/2005 12:45 PM  
Blogger Faramin said...

I am glad you did it David, but I agree with Jamak that as an American there's more that you can do. In fact, I believe there are much more that you can do and you must do. After all, what is happening in and around the world by the US, is in the name of all Americans. So you do have an extra challenge to do your part to stop the aggressions of the US in the world.

4/14/2005 8:36 PM  
Blogger David said...

Faramin, thanks for your comment. Perhaps there is more that I can do. I promise that I will try.

4/16/2005 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Ehsan said...

David, thanks for sharing this. I also agree that some degree of discipline is important, especially in a democratic society. Discipline may be one of the reasons behind the "culture of fear", but it seems like there's more to this than obedience. On another note, I really want to know your general views on the guy in the Ford Excursion. I had seen a good number of American people like him when I was there. What do you think motivates him, if any?

4/17/2005 12:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Ehsan, you are welcome. :) I believe that self-discipline is an important aspect of any successful society. But, what is the best way for a society to produce self-disciplined individuals? In my opinion, it is far better to shape children by rewarding good behavior than by punishing bad behavior. A reward tends to raise the self-esteem of an individual. A punishment has the opposite effect. An enviroment that emphasizes obedience can cause fear and anxiety. People who experience such negative emotions are less likely to explore and be creative. I attempted to illustrate this with my example of the differences in education in America between the children of aristocrats vs. the poor and middle class. Rich children are raised in environments that encourage them to develop into adults who will be self-confident and assertive. However, the majority of children are raised in an environment that is conducive to producing adults who will be far more submissive and obedient. What if all children were raised to be very self-confident and assertive? Well, the rich would not stay rich for very long if they had no one to serve them. Predictably, the rich like to stay that way, so they rig the system to produce lots of underlings for them to command. I suppose that I must sound quite cynical. I realize that our modern high technology society is completely dependant on the hard work of thousands of different types of specialists in the work force. Also, some people have to manage while others go about their specialized tasks. If all children were raised to be very assertive, it might be quite difficult to get them to cooperate with each other as adults. Every one might be thinking, "Who is this person or that person who thinks they have the right to tell me what to do?!" Anyway, I'm just rambling here. There are certainly other ways to instill fear in a society. Have you seen the movie "Bowling for Columbine"? In the movie, the American media was compared to the Canadian media. In America, much of the news is devoted to violent crimes. In Canada, much more of the news is devoted to positive things. In America, people always lock their doors and many people buy guns. In Canada, apparently many people leave their doors unlocked and few people feel the need to have a gun. I suspect that there may be significant differences between the American and Canadian educational systems, also.

What do I think about the guy in the Ford Excursion? Hmmm... Well, I could say that he acted like a jerk, but that isn't particularly constructive. :) The "Support our Troops" magnet strongly suggests that he is affiliated with some sort of fundamentalist Christian Church, because I know that those magnets are being marketed through Churches. The magnets started to appear during the Presidential election last year. They were the idea of some Republicans who wanted people to show their support for Bush and his war in Iraq. Thus, this guy is almost certainly a Republican and a Bush supporter. The fact that he was driving a Ford Excursion all by himself suggests to me that he is a very selfish person who feels no responsibility what so ever to do his part to protect the environment. If he had been driving himself plus eight or nine other people (that thing is really huge!), his choice of vehicle wouldn't have particularly bothered me. I hope he goes hungry filling that monster with gas! :) As to what motivates him, I really don't know except that whatever it is, it is very different from me!

If you have read all this, thanks for your patience! I guess I felt like doing some talking.

4/18/2005 1:34 AM  
Anonymous Ehsan said...

David, thanks, yes I read it all :) I agree with you on your thoughts on the difference between the children of aristocrats vs. the poor and middle class. But as you said, the modern high-tech society needs submissive specialized workers so I guess there's a dilemma. Regarding education, I also believe that appraisal is any time better than punishment, both in families and workplaces. I saw "Bowling for Columbine" a couple of times. The comparison between Canada and States was amazing to me, especially since guns are as readily available in Canada as there are in the States. But, for some reason, the crime rate is so much lower! I am sure that education plays an important part.
Wow, I didn't know churches were giving away those “support the troops” magnets!!! That's strange. I wonder about other possible give-aways! As for the Ford Ex guy, I appreciate your thoughts. I had the same exact feeling when I was there, but hearing it from an American clears my doubts about such people.

4/18/2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger Jamak said...


I wanted to bring this to your attention. The Canadian Broadcast Corp. (CBC) has wonderful award winning documentaries almost on a nightly basis. The attached link is a 3 part series which started last night and will continue until Tuesday on the Politics of Fear and based on the subject I was referring to in my comment. It's a riveting look at how politicians have used the concept of fear to control our lives and the foundations of it. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in this subject:

4/25/2005 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Regina said...

I am a political science student in Germany. I am Hispanic American and I think I would like to offer a different perspective on this thread...
Like I mentioned above, I have dual citizenship, and even though I was not raised in the U.S. I consider myself american, and I consider it an advantage to be able to look at the U.S. with an "outsiders perspective"...and it is through that lens that I want to offer my oppinion.
Like you said David, a society should promote discipline not only through punishment of wrongdoings but also through encouraging good behavior...and now I want to connect this concept to demonstrations...
I feel so sad about all this negative media focus on the Irak first experiences with Americans abroad was not on a war, it was through medical aid...I helped as a translator and I saw an unparallel generosity which impacted me personally....
I consider engagement in efforts that promote relief and development in countries at need one of the most effective tools in order to promote democracy. And I would also compare some demonstrations as focusing on the bad behavior instead of enhancing positive efforts.
I do not want to generalize, since freedom of assembly is a characteristic of a democratic society, however, we should consider objectively, which efforts bring about the most success? Not only in the domestic arena but also in the international arena.
After my first experience with international engagement for development effort in latin american countries I decided to continue participating in such efforts, and as a witness and participant I must say that such efforts leave a possitive footprint regarding americans in the hearts of people.

11/27/2006 6:06 PM  

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