I attended today's protest in Washington, DC, and once again, I have been able to pinpoint the problem with the left, and why we have such a huge problem getting our point across to a majority of voters.
Collectively, we have the worst case of ADD I have ever seen.
Now, the protest had been heavily promoted for a couple of weeks, and it was very clearly a protest against the Iraq, un, war.
Okay, let me interrupt myself for a minute, because I have to make another point. (Is ADD contagious?). We are NEVER going to get a majority of the American people behind us if we always let the idiots on the right control the debate. And the fact that we are still using the term "war" when describing the occupation of Iraq, demonstrates a major problem on our part. We are not involved in a "war." The "war" was won more than four years ago. So, when we refer to what's happening in Iraq as a "war," we actually give the right wing their talking points. We have to stop doing that.
Now, back to the protest.
It was an interesting protest atmosphere; a lot of people, massed in several areas around the Mall and the White House; I was at Lafayette Park, across from the front of the White House, where several thousand people gathered at about noon to begin. Now, keep in mind; the flyers passed out all week identified the protest as a protest on Iraq. Most of the signs were about Iraq. It was a very good turnout for an sort f protest, and this one was ostensibly over Iraq.
I say "ostensibly," because the left's collective ADD was kicking in big time. If passersby were supposed to be impressed by the turnout, they were probably confused by the incredible lack of focus. This is a partial list of subjects covered by the speakers at the park, at a protest of the Iraq occupation;
- The Iraq "War" (of course)
- Bush's shabby treatment of Veterans and their families… (no problem, that fits)
- The Democrats' failure to stop war funding… (not possible, and simplistic, but still… the theme fit)
- Racism (this war is very racist, so okay, that fits)
- Cuban terrorists being allowed to enter the United States…
- A call for an end to Israeli Zionism, and for a Palestinian homeland.
- A call for an end to gun violence in the United States...
- Economic Justice for the poor in the United States…
And that's just the people on the stage. Milling through the crowd were people excitedly advocating for socialism, precisely the Socialist Party of the United States. I stood and listened in as three of these people tried to recruit members from the crowd, and not one even mentioned the Iraq occupation.
Then there were the PETA members, passionately pushing veganism on all who would listen, which wasn't many. One guy was obviously only listening to one vegan because she was really cute, but given what he was staring at, I didn't envision him giving up dairy anytime soon.
Another group of folks were advocating for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and yet another group was informing us of Global Warming because, well, no one's ever heard of that before.
And I haven't even mentioned the contingent of Libertarian Ron Paul supporters, who were sitting bored along H Street, and the cult-like Lyndon LaRouche supporters, who show up at every protest, and never seem to be discouraged by the fact that their cult never catches on with anyone.
Do you know why the right has been able to make so many political inroads in the last generation or so? It's because they're disciplined. Their followers are dumb as shit, but the people leading the right wing are an incredibly disciplined group, capable of focusing like a laser on those issues that its "base" finds important.
Now, I'm not talking about marching in lockstep on every issue. I don't want us to be like them in that way. But let's focus our efforts on issues one at a time. If we're going to teach the general public about what's really going on in the world, and how best to fix it, we have to focus on one thing at a time. Yes, war, social and economic justice and the environment are in many ways interrelated, but talking about all of them at the same time tends to simply confuse the hell out of people. Our goal in every protest march or in every blog article should be to teach people what we believe, and that is impossible to do if our views bounce off the walls like a box of superballs. For example, how many of those people we have to reach would continue to read an article on impeaching Bush and Cheney, if every other paragraph was about global warming and the genocide in Darfur? And make no mistake; we must stop holding protests and writing articles for ourselves; if we don't start reaching the masses, we'll never be successful in changing the climate in Washington, and saving the lives of our soldiers.
The next time we set aside a day to protest the Iraq quagmire, such as the March on Washington set for September 29, we have to put aside all other issues for that day, no matter how important they are to us every other day, and focus on the one. Learn everything you can about the war, and how to end it, and focus every fiber of your being on that. Then, a couple of weeks later, hold another rally and focus on the other topic close to your heart, even if it's veganism. By focusing on one topic, we are less confusing, and we teach more people those things they need to know.
And before you know it, we'll be living in a progressive country again.