Letters to the editor
May 9, 2003 | Page 4
A hollow promise of U.S. "freedom"
Dear Socialist Worker,
From the window of my workplace on the Upper East Side of New York, I just saw a young Black man arrested while he was walking down Lexington Avenue. The reason? He was unable to produce a receipt from his GAP shopping bag to show police when they asked him for one (apparently, the cops think that Black people don't shop at the GAP--therefore, they can only shoplift).
In the course of the arrest, I overheard the cops admit that they had been tailing him for at least 10 blocks. This reminded me of something Rosa Luxemburg wrote: "Bourgeois class justice is the net through which rapacious sharks escaped with ease, while it caught in its pitiless meshes every small, helpless minnow that ventured beyond the pale of capitalist law."
Instead of arresting the sharks who this very minute are committing mass murder and grand theft oil in Iraq, the cops are worrying about a Black man walking down Lexington Avenue with the "wrong" brand-name on a shopping bag.
And when they aren't going after minorities, they are attacking the antiwar movement. At Day X protests, three students from Hunter College were arrested after the police took it upon themselves to try to fence and trap protesters.
When Black people can't even walk down the street in peace in this country, is it any wonder that Iraqis don't believe the claims that the U.S. military is an "army of liberation"? When antiwar protesters are beaten, is it any wonder that Iraqis are skeptical when the unelected Bush promises them democracy?
When he promises "massive aid within 36 hours" and two trucks (out of a total of seven!) show up to feed all of southern Iraq, is it any wonder that Iraqis are fighting? When the U.S. decides--after destroying their cities and killing their loved ones--to sell water to Iraqis, is it any wonder that Iraqis are throwing grenades and not flowers at U.S. soldiers?
Socialist Worker had it right when it said, "It's right to resist!" We have to keep organizing against the war and win the battle for democracy and liberation at home.
Pham Binh, New York City
Dear Socialist Worker,
Even before the war on Iraq began, San Francisco was host to antiwar marches bringing tens of thousands--and even hundreds of thousands--of people into the streets. This anger and radicalization spurred people to think about next steps and tactics in active dissent, with rallies slowly shifting from more passive and legal marches into forms of mass civil disobedience.
I say slowly shifting because there was a growing debate in the movement about the rationale for civil disobedience. For example, during one protest in San Francisco, we had enough people to take over the Bay Bridge and stop traffic. Activists hesitated about this idea for a number of reasons.
Some were afraid of being arrested or beaten by the cops. Others felt it would encourage the press to demonize the struggle. These are understandable concerns, but they need to be argued through, because the truth of the matter is that there comes a time where civil disobedience makes sense.
Many of us protesters are no longer new to the movement. Now is the time when we need to start trying out new strategies that actually put pressure on those in charge to listen to our demands.
For example, at San Francisco State University (SFSU), we staged a successful sit-in inside our administrative building. Three hundred students occupied the first floor of the building and demanded that the university president address our demands. The police were ready for us, but we stood our ground.
At the end of the day, however, we started to get smaller, so from there, our group openly agreed to call it a day. Even though we didn't get our demands met right away, I see this sit-in at SFSU as a success. Students Against War, the main organizers, were able to convince a portion of our campus of the need for civil disobedience. The fear of being arrested or harassed by the cops is legitimate, but there comes a point when we have to weigh what's more important--that fear or making change.
It's important to say that we are at a time now where the war in Iraq is over.
Many activists are in a state of demoralization, and the question of civil disobedience is not as important right now as boosting the politics and organization of the movement. But we haven't seen the last of Bush's war drive.
Ultimately, we are not going to end these wars just by dialogue or passive rallies. We are at a time where the stakes have been raised, and we as activists need to get more confrontational.
Sarah Levine, San Francisco
Dear Socialist Worker,
I sent an article to your paper that was printed in January ("Held hostage by the racist injustice system," January 17). I'm really honored for your help.
Now, I really have to say that the war situation is out of hand. Ever since Bush got into office, I knew this would happen! All of this uncalled-for foolishness: the war, the starvation of children. I really think that Bush has a serious problem.
Communities are suffering and jobs are on the down-and-downer. Everyone knows that the U.S. has the upper hand in Iraq, but why bully on and push others around?
Bullies get roughed up in the end. Nine out of 10, you lose the fight if you started it. The "big people" should show some consideration and be human for a change. Personally, I think Bush is the real brute. No more blood for oil!
Cornell Milton, Chicago