Members of the theatrical protest brigade Code Pink left several dozen pairs of shoes in front of the White House to represent some of the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians killed during the war in Iraq, and they called for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi. It was Bush, they said, who should be in jail.I'm very thankful for Muntadar al-Zaidi's brave act of defiance and for Code Pink's action in solidarity with him. I understand, however, that Cornerites and even Raw Story is a bit confused by all this:
"It's not enough to throw a shoe at him, he needs to be hauled before an international court and charged for war crimes," Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said.
The event also had elements of street theater as the dozen or so protesters who showed up took turns hurling their own footwear at a Bush impersonator. It was quite the cathartic event for some of the demonstrators, who have frequently expressed their outrage at the president's abuses of power and misguided foreign invasions.
"We love our Constitution and we hate what you've done to it. And we also hate what you've done to the Iraqi people, George," Benjamin said as she prepared to throw two shoes at another demonstrator wearing a Bush mask. "This is on behalf of the Iraqi people, especially the women who have been hurt by your policies, George. And this one is for the children, George, who have suffered in Iraq."
There was an appreciable level of irony in a group of anti-war protesters who celebrate non-violence gathering to champion the cause of a man who assaulted a world leader.Medea and Rain hit the proverbial nail nonviolently on the head. Much of nonviolence is predicated on the notion that you have the space and time to make moral decisions. If you haven't been educated, and given the opportunity to consider and practice alternatives to violence, it's certainly understandable on a human level that you might act violently out of desperation.
Rain Burroughs, an anti-war activist who traveled to the protest from Richmond, Va., said she found it "refreshing to see someone stand up" on behalf of Iraqi civilians who had been killed, even though she traditionally espouses the value of nonviolent action.
Benjamin said some Code Pink members were wary of championing al-Zaidi, but she said his actions have to be placed in context of the country where he lives.
"We've gotten a lot of our people who've called us and said ... it seems too violent for us, and we say, 'You're not living in Iraq. You're not suffering in your daily life," Benjamin said in an interview. "I mean, were I an Iraqi, I don't know that I would still be a nonviolent person. So this is actually a less violent act than one might expect."
As I noted in a recent Paxcast, even Gandhi said just over a month after the start of WWII:
[N]on-violence has to be non-violence of the brave and the strong. It must come from inward conviction. I have, therefore, not hesitated to say that it is better to be violent if there is violence in our breasts than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.Muntadar al-Zaidi has refused to be impotent any longer, even if it's not the manner that we would prefer. But it's not about us: it's about the Iraqis and their desire to have us leave their sovereign nation, and he has lit a brushfire in the minds of his people, not to mention ours, all with an object so mundane as a shoe.
PS--Read the whole Raw Story link: it has more pics and video.
PPS--Apologies for the self-indulgence in links.