Anti-war protesters are
flowing in from the mainstream
to Alternative Reader Index
In Chico, Calif., a shy, 83-year-old World War II veteran and former naval
officer surprises his son by attending an anti-war protest outside Rep. Wally
Herger's office, where 21 are arrested.
In Sacramento, a land surveyor for the state rounds up his book group to attend
three peace rallies in Sacramento and San Francisco.
In the Bay Area, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur creates a Web site whose
current anti-war agenda has attracted nearly 600,000 Internet followers.
It has been four weeks since I wrote about the burgeoning anti-war movement and
the flawed media coverage around it. The stories have been pouring in since,
The Rocklin schoolteacher who worries about his students' futures. The
68-year-old "stay-at-home protester" who e-mails and writes
his elected officials. The 64-year-old semiretired carpenter who proudly stages
a war protest in Auburn.
There is the Sacramento attorney who sees her peace activism as a "matter
of logic." And a father who drives his 12-year-old son to the Oct. 26
peace rally in San Francisco. A 51-year-old writer takes a ferry to the rally,
too, because she is alarmed by President Bush's "frightening drive to
This is what the anti-war movement looks like - not just the collection of
fringe characters and political oddballs some news outlets portray.
Yet media coverage seems stuck in a 1960's and 1970's Vietnam War-era frame,
with journalists confining themselves to protest stories and visual images
reminiscent of those times.
Problem? The times are most definitely changing.
"This is a much more mainstream movement than the anti-Vietnam War
movement was at a comparable stage," said Stephen Zunes, chairman of
the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. Zunes,
who specializes in U.S. policy in the Middle East and nonviolent social
movements, recently published the book "Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East
Policy and the Roots of Terrorism."
It is true that the Oct. 26 anti-war demonstrations in Washington and San
Francisco were organized by the Workers World Party, not the least bit
But that's logistics. Then you have to ask: Who attended? And who else is
stepping forward to publicly oppose the war?
Say hello to your friends and neighbors.
Unlike the early days of the Vietnam anti-war movement, says Zunes, churches and
labor unions have edged into this movement much sooner. Those speaking out
against attacking Iraq already include the National Conference of Catholic
Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church and, in
this state, the California Federation of Teachers. AFL-CIO President John J.
Sweeney has expressed reservations to both houses of Congress.
There are many pacifists, says Zunes, but there are also pragmatists this
go-round. These are the people who question from a practical, utilitarian
standpoint whether war would be good for American interests. They worry about an
international backlash against America and the loss of American lives. They
wonder what would happen after a war.
"Afghanistan showed it's easier to throw one government out than it is
to put one together," he said.
While much of the news coverage focuses on noisy protests - it fits the '60s
frame, after all - a less visible element carries considerable clout: those "stay-at-home"
Joan Blades, a Berkeley entrepreneur who co-founded MoveOn.org, an
Internet-based group, posted a petition Wednesday urging Bush to let the U.N.
weapons inspections process work. She expects to get 20,000 to 30,000 signatures
in 24 hours - not unrealistic for a group that raised $1 million in a few days
for four anti-war candidates.
Luke Wilson, a 55-year-old land surveyor for the state Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection, attended recent protests with his First Friday Book Club.
As a young student, Wilson protested the Vietnam War, too.
But this is different. And if the media can't see that, Wilson can.
"Back then, it was a long struggle to get mainstream people on board
with that movement.
"Now," says the father of two, "we've already
05, 2002 Bulatlat.com
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