Sunday, April 30, 2006
Yesterday saw hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers march down Broadway in a mighty protest of the Bush war against Iraq. Their demand: turn our country around! You'd think that's big news, right? As his poll numbers plummet and the majority of Americans oppose his war based on deception, you'd expect the media to highlight a massive outpouring of protest against that war.
It was with that expectation that I pored over the pages of today's New York Times looking, in vain, for prominent coverage of yesterday's giant peace parade. Nothing on the front page. Instead, the editors did see fit to print another of what might appear to be tongue-in-cheek articles dealing with that shining example of humanitarianism - the Bush administration. Last time it was U.S. unhappiness with out-of-control Sunni militias in Iraq. Seems the folks we installed in power there have taken to midnight round-ups of Shiite men, whose disfigured bodies are then discovered dumped alongside the road, the victims of the most horrendous torture and murder. This time around, the front page reports that the Administration wants to repatriate the almost 500 prisoners being held at Guantanamo but is "stymied ... because of concerns that the prisoners may not be treated humanely by their own governments." Huh? Now just wait a second. Isn't this the same Guantanamo that has been exposed as a hell hole of torture and abuse? The Guantanamo whose torture tactics were then used as a guide book for Abu Ghraib and U.S. prisons in Afghanistan? The Guantanamo where prisoners are being kept for years without charges brought against them or trials held to ascertain their guilt? And isn't this the same government whose CIA has been using rendition (a k a kidnapping) to send alleged terrorists back to countries that are known torturers? To be fair, The Times article did raise these questions, albeit half-way through the article. The headline, however, hardly reflects the content and makes it appear otherwise: U.S. Says It Fears Detainee Abuse in Repatriation.
But I digress - I was looking for an article on the peace march. Wait! There, on page 3 is an article on a demonstration: Big Protest in Kyrgystan reads the headline. Seems 10,000 people were demanding more democracy in the former Soviet republic, (now part of Rummy's New Europe, one of the new "democracies" that is being used as a base for U.S. troops in the mid-east). I leafed onwards. No mention of the demonstration in all of the national section. I supposed that since it was a New York protest, The Times, in its wisdom, had placed the coverage in the Metro section. And my supposition was correct. There, on page 35, tucked inside the Metro section, in a rather smallish article, was The Times' coverage. Never mind that the march had drawn people from all over the country and was, thus, an event of national importance. Never mind that our country's future, indeed its constitution and its very democracy, stand at a crossroad. Never mind the urgency of our times - an urgency that demands massive protest and action to reverse course. Never mind all that. According to The Times - these protests are, well, just old hat and don't warrant reportage in any way that reflects their importance. And so millions of Americans across our land are kept in the dark - their own opposition to the Bush policies kept in check - unable to link up with the growing protests by millions of their fellow citizens.
I believe that a crucial element of democracy (a favorite topic of The Times when favorably comparing the U.S. to virtually any other country in the world) is the informing of the citizens - i.e. the access of its people to information so that reasoned judgments can be made. The intentional and conscious marginalizing of the peace movement, the blackout of press coverage by a complicit and cowardly news media are body blows to democracy. The slanted coverage by The Times during the run-up to the war in Iraq, the scandal that surrounded its ace reporter, Judith Miller and the aid and comfort given her by the editor and publisher have already tarnished and damaged the reputation of The Times as the paper of record. But, it seems, The Times continues to pursue the very same policies and in that sense cannot be depended on to protect our democracy in any consistent manner while our constituion is under attack from those who would destroy it. Only the people, in the streets and in the voting booth this November, can do that.
Labor against the war - thousands of people lined the side streets waiting to march.
Brooklyn Parents For Peace on East 19th Street with other community groups.
Brooklyn Parents For Peace moves out into Broadway.
The DECIDER was there.
Puppet Bush with his Puppeteer Cheney and our earth.
Billionaires For Bush were there.
Looking uptown, the marchers stretched on forever!
Two lovely peace marchers.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Thousands of working New Yorkers took to the streets today in solidarity with Transit Workers Local 100 leader, Roger Toussaint. Unbelievable, but true, that here in New York city, a labor town, a union leader was being sent to jail for the crime of leading his union brothers and sisters in a strike to defend their living standards. Forced to the wall by the notoriously corrupt MTA, the workers had no choice - it was give back or fight back! Under Toussaint's leadership the transit workers chose to take a stand. They demanded to be treated with respect and dignity.
When France's conservative government, in U.S. style, tried to take away job security from young French workers, all hell broke loose. The students and workers took to the streets in unending demonstrations against the new law. And they didn't quit until they had forced the government to back down and withdraw. NY Times reporters bemoaned the "rigidity" of French workers and praised the "spirit of adventure" of American labor, as if living through the hell of endless givebacks, cutbacks and layoffs is an exciting part of life that Americans just can't wait to try. Just where do they get this crap from?
When the transit workers went on strike they were taking action on behalf of all American workers, organized and not. And thus they won the emnity of the New York ruling class from Pataki to Bloomberg to Kalikow. The full force of the media was brought out to attack these hard working public servants. Bloomberg, resorting to overt racism, called them thugs. Clyde Haberman, NY Times reporter, who generally hewes to a liberal line, snootily referred to them as slugs, blaming the split contract vote in Local 100 on the union leaders rather than the divisive and ugly tactics of the MTA. Informal polls showed wide support amongst the population for the courage of the transit workers. But Haberman painted a picture of popular anger at the strikers, quoting Barry Feinstein, a discredited, former Teamster mis-leader who now sits alongside the millionaire bosses on the MTA. What a scoop, Clyde! Perhaps you'll win a Pulitzer for your talented rhyming of "slug" with "thug."
Today's rally and march across the bridge could and should be the start of a militant upsurge by New York workers. Perhaps the judge in his black robes, representing the wealthy elite of our city, did us all a favor by jailing Roger Toussaint and attacking the union with draconian fines and a suspension of the dues checkoff. It might just be the start of a new civil rights movement. We haven't forgotten that the great leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, died as he was giving his support to striking sanitation workers in Memphis. They were also despised and attacked by those in power. But King knew the value of labor -
Today's rally was chaired by a feisty United Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, who was joined by the leaders of dozens of NYC unions. Community leaders, City Council members and Congressman Major Owens also spoke along with Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Herbert Daugherty. Thousands of union members, Black, Brown and white, filled the plaza in front of Brooklyn's Borough Hall and the streets reverberated to the sound of thousands voicing their solidarity as Toussaint mounted the platform to lead the march across the bridge and to prison in the Manhattan tombs. It was a beautiful and moving sight. The message was clear -- Tomorrow is another day ... the fight continues.
I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions.
This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream — a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.
That is the dream...
Roger Toussaint (in red shirt) enters the rally, surrounded by supporters.
Roger Toussaint, entering Borough Hall plaza, surrounded by his supporters.
Communication Workers turned out to show their support.
Rani Weingarten, President of of the United Federation of Teachers, chaired the rally.
Ernest feelings of pride and a determination to fight back were very evident.
Michael Fishman, President of SEIU Local 32B, addresses the crowd.
Congressman Major Owens shows which side he's on.
Rev. Al Sharpton gave a rousing speech!
Roger Toussaint gets support before the march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Leading the march across the bridge: Toussaint, Weingarten, Sharpton and Daugerty.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
I've been out on the streets of my community again -- with a table and flyers -- trying to build support for the April 29th March for Peace, Justice and Democracy. Nine initiating organizations, representing broad sections of the population, called the action: United for Peace and Justice, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, National Organization for Women, Friends of the Earth, U.S. Labor Against the War, Climate Crisis Coalition, People's Hurricane Relief Fund, National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and Veterans For Peace. Now hundreds of additional indivduals and organizations across the country have signed on and it's shaping up as giant outpouring against the war and for a change of direciton in our country.
All out for April 29th - NYC!
Brooklyn Parents For Peace, my local peace group, has been putting teams of members with tables, posters and flyers throughout downtown Brooklyn, distributing 1000's of flyers and talking to hundreds of Brooklynites, urging attendance at the April 29th march.
My table at Flatbush Avenue and Sterling Place.
Collecting signatures at a table at Fort Greene Park.
The reception has been warm and it's obvious that the word is out as many have said they're already planning to participate. While there's been virtually no hostility and most people on the street seem to destest Bush and his policies, there's also a lot of apathy, particularly among young people who pass by, refuse a flyer and seem to have blinders on. It brings to mind that acerbic bumper sticker: "If you're not outraged, then you're not paying attention." It saddens me, coming from the activism of the 60's, to see so many young people without a sense of idealism and a burning desire to change things that was the hallmark of my generation during the Vietnam war.
Talking about Vietnam, and so relevant to today, a new film is being shown, directed by David Zeiger. It's playing at the IFC Center in the Village (6th Avenue and West 3rd Street) and is titled Sir! No Sir! This is the story of the enormous resistance movement among GI's that developed inside the Army during the Vietnam war. That's a movement that has been erased from American history. History rewritten to turn a war of immorality and depravity into a heroic event.
Jane Fonda spoke at the opening benefit last Monday along with filmmaker David Zeiger and some of the stars of the film: GI's -- then young now 60-year oldsters but heroes who went to jail rather than kill people fighting for their independence. Jane looked really fine but more than looks, I was impressed by her principled stance in connecting the dots from yesteryear's war to the present disaster in Iraq. Her message and the film's message: Those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it. Jane, who toured with actor, Donald Sutherland and others in the FTA (Free The Army) show for GI's during Vietnam, is featured in the film.
The film will be shown only through Sunday, April 23rd. If you can get down to IFC in the Village tomorrow you'll be impressed by a film that says no to the rewriting of history to fit the plans and schemes of Bush and his band of chicken hawks who would send another generation of youth to fight another Vietnam all over again.
Hurry on down to the IFC for Sir! No Sir!
Jane Fonda and David Zeigler at the benefit for Iraq Vets Against The War at the IFC last Monday.
Jane makes a point.