Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 45               December 15 - 21, 2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Anti-war protesters are flowing in from the mainstream 

Sacramento Bee

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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, among them:

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 war."

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 mainstream.

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" protesters.

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.

says the father of two, "we've already got them."

December 05, 2002 Bulatlat.com

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