the efficacy and purpose of protest
Considering how closely intertwined our economic fates are with China (they own our debt, make our consumer goods, etc.), protesting their human rights record by threatening to skip their party (Olympic opening ceremony) sounds about as effective as protesting Wal-Mart’s labor practices by writing “You Suck” on your receipt.
While I understand that protestors in the street are at danger of having their message misconstrued or simply ignored, I disagree that protesting in a public forum has no value. It’s sometimes a great way to get your message out to people who may not otherwise even know there are organized, concerned citizens fighting for civil liberties or against a war.
Just think about seeing those grannies out in the streets in Pasadena, protesting the war in Iraq. You see them and you realize hey, people of all ages are with us on this, and what have I done today to help bring our troops home?
And also, it’s just the right thing to do. Even if you can’t beat ’em, even if it’s a drop of conscience in an ocean of corruption, you shouldn’t join the forces of evil by attending their events, buying their products, or putting up with it without at least letting people know that you are opposed to their inhuman treatment of others.
And in that spirit, this bit of news about the May Day strike on the West Coast warms the cockles of my heart:
West Coast cargo traffic came to a halt Thursday as port workers staged daylong anti-war protests to commemorate May Day, terminal operators said Thursday.
Thousands of dockworkers did not show up for the morning shift, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle, Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug said.
Even if they’re only slowing down shipping for eight hours or so, this show of solidarity on May Day says in no uncertain terms that working people care about ending the war. This is exactly the type of civil disobedience that piece by piece ended Jim Crow and helped end the Vietnam War. Even if we do live in an era when anyone can rally people around a cause online and email their Congressman eight times a day, I think there is still value in public displays of support for a cause.