Monday, May 25, 2009

Rorschach Test

What do you see when you look at the picture on the right?

I see my friend Medea, leading the charge against injustice as she often does, with other wonderful Pinkers (is that Lori on the right?) in the background. Other folks see "wingnuts...armed with ideological certainty...addicted to...a righteous indignation that makes them unable to see any perspective other than their own."

That would be John Avlon, self-described centrist who used to work for none other than Rudy Giuliani and the New York Sun. It seems his understanding of occupying the so-called middle and finding common ground is a Solomon-esque approach grabbing whatever he can label extreme on either side of the two-dimensional political spectrum and castigate both of them. Fair and balanced!

Says he, after first addressing The Right's Wingnut of the Week:

The looney left protest group Code Pink attempted to assault former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with bloodstained hands earlier in the year. Earlier this month, they attempted an ambush of former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

John might have a bit more street cred if he actually checked his facts. Desiree was found guilty of "disorderly conduct" last May for her 2007 action. Of course there was also no attempted assault by any stretch.

Oh, and she and Medea *did* ambush Rummy.

It's funny how pundits can't seem to get even the simplest facts straight. Perhaps it's because they are unable to see any perspective other than their own as they struggle to prove some vague, chimeric point.

This is all par for the course in Code Pink-land, where a strident cluelessness accompanies street theater protests. They’ve disrupted countless congressional hearings, blocked the opening of military recruiting stations at Berkley and called our soldiers war criminals.

I always enjoy the litanies such critics put together, each item without context and assumed to be damning in its own right.

Oh no, Code Pink has disrupted Congressional hearings! Because we all know protest can only occur in Free Speech Zones and never, ever should we let our elected employees and the enablers they invite to their happy little confabs that we are watching them and maybe are even a bit...displeased. For future reference, Pinkers, write a sternly worded letter and allow the matter to drop. Thanks in advance.

And please, stop harassing those nice military recruiters. They're just hard-working folks, who never lie to potential cannon fodder.

BTW, Code Pink isn't the only organization that actively works on counter-recruitment. Our friends at NNOMY do, too, amongst other groups. Why? Because some folks think that we shouldn't be raise our children to kill other parents' children. And sometimes you just have to put yourself in their way to get them to pause and consider what joining the military means.

As for the "war criminal" charge, I've never heard any Pinker actually say that, though I hear it mentioned by detractors all the time. Just like the "they spit on soldiers returning from Vietnam," however, nobody has ever been able to actually show this to be the case--extra surprising in the age of Google. But it sure sounds great when you're in high dudgeon and have an axe to grind!

They’ve been apologists for left-wing dictators like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez

That wouldn't be the duly-elected president of a sovereign power now, would it? The one who is almost as popular as our own?

and met privately with Iran’s Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad and called it “a major step forward.”

Indeed, if by 'privately' you mean "with 150 other peace activists" and issued a public press release. What's really puzzling is why building bridges is something to be decried by a centrist who tells us we need to find common ground. Some fairly non-pink folks think it's a good idea with regard to Iran specifically, and Howard Thurman would agree on general principle.

What's more, it is interesting that somebody like Medea would be such a self-hater that she would gleefully make peace with a Holocaust-denier. It's almost like Alvon threw that in there just to be...inflammatory.

Lately, they’ve been collecting donations for Gaza.

Next scandal: Code Pink collects donations to save puppies. The horror. Of course, that self-hating, anti-Israel Medea is just doing this because she loves Hamas or something.

Or maybe Code Pink is trying to change the status quo just a bit, and make sure humanitarian aid gets into Gaza where more than half the population are children suffering from PTSD and depression, and growing up to hate Israel and America. Maybe Code Pink is once again trying to find common ground.

The US government is for them the prime enemy of peace in the world today. And apparently their feelings were not specific to the Bush administration.

Correct! Finally.

We don't work against specific administrations. We work for an agenda of peace and justice. Bush was the extreme we've had to deal with in the Executive branch; Obama is more moderate and thoughtful, and closer to our side but still far from perfect. So we create the space for him to do the right thing using myriad time-tested nonviolent tactics.

You'd think a "centrist" would appreciate that we don't just resist a president just because they have an R after their name.

Code Pink is trying to speak for the folks on the far-left who feel burned by the recent $96 billion dollar funding for troop escalation in Afghanistan, despite the fact that Obama campaigned on such an increase.

This person who phonebanked, canvassed and captained for Obama knows he campaigned on such an increase. What of it? Did I somehow forfeit my right to dissent because of this?

19th century Republican Senator Carl Schurz famously said: My country right or wrong. When right, to keep right; when wrong, to put right. Same goes for my president.

President Obama’s centrist course of action in Afghanistan and Iraq succeeded in depolarizing the most divisive issue of this decade within weeks of his entering office.

If he depolarized this issue, how could Avlon also say, "On the same day that President Obama’s approach to the war on terror was being attacked from the right by former Vice President Dick Cheney..."?

But what's wrong with polarization, anyway? Was there some time in our nation's idyllic past wherein everybody agreed about everything and frolicked in paradise, plucking ripe fruit from the tree of liberty all year round? There's an unreasonable and haughty aspect to the "centrist" fear of disagreement and division, which I guess explains how uncomfortable it makes them when people go out full force in support of their ideals.

For Code Pink, turning over Afghanistan to the Taliban would be the best way to achieve peace and justice. For a group supposedly dedicated to women’s rights, that is naïve in the extreme.

Oh, what an onion of wrongness left for us to unpeel. A false dichotomy bolstered by ignorance of facts on the ground, wrapped in a strawman erected hoping nobody ever checks into what Code Pink's actual stance on Afghanistan is. Shocking.

It’s time for a reality check: nobody is pro-abortion, just as nobody is purely pro-war.

I know he's talking to Randall Terry, but I am compelled to agree that nobody is pro-abortion. We are pro-choice, pro-reproductive freedom. And the point is taken that even with such stark, seemingly binary political positions, we can still find some common ground in such a divisive environment.

Yet common ground and compromise are not the same as capitulation. While we might work together with anti-choicers on issues like access to contraception to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, we would not give in to the notion that a woman's body isn't her own to control.

Similarly, we certainly agree something needs to be done to protect America by reducing terrorism, but we are going to fundamentally oppose American exceptionalism and violent solutions that do nothing to secure us and only increase terrorism whilst also creating more human misery around the globe.

And while American presidents oft say they don't want war, they generally do so just before launching one. Obama isn't anti-war, by his own admission. Given how he's linked the waste of lives and treasure in Iraq to our domestic problems, we're here to see that he makes a similar connection regarding Afghanistan.

We can find common ground in America, but it requires thinking responsibly about solving problems, not rabid protests.

Once again, heaven forfend if we protest and offend virgin ears. Fetch me my smelling salts as I retire to the fainting couch. And of course protesting is mutually exclusive with thinking responsibly.

Democracy depends on a faith in persuasion, not violent polarization.

Democracy depends on many things, actually, not just binary choices between persuasion and something else. Perhaps Avlon would consider that it depends on people of conscience acting in defense of principles they hold dear. Samuel Adams would say so: It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.

What else does democracy require? A sovereign people aware of their various choices, methinks. If the Military Industrial Complex is shoved down their throats by the media masters owned by corporations that make weapon systems, how do we make them aware of other viewpoints? We must grab their attention somehow.

It also requires diversity of action. Paul Hawken speaking at the University of Portland's graduation:

No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen.

Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.

So we're pushing for our ideals as part of a large tapestry. When we can, we make connections with other people, organizations and agendas. When we can't, we stand firm. That's not a bad thing in a democracy.

And violent polarization? I think Avlon used up his allowance of hyperbole early on.

I admit to a certain amount of frustration lately with the punditocracy. They act as though they alone are capable of receiving wisdom, casting about for solutions people have already come up with. They remind me of Plato, who valued pure thought over real experience.

It's exhausting to deal with such ignorance, but it always offers a chance for outreach and education. So even though I'd rather just say, "this dude doesn't know jack and his piece is clearly ridiculous to the casual observer," I recall that most people don't know about all the things Code Pink does, were never taught all the fine examples of nonviolent action through history, and don't realize their own power in this democracy.

So we take a deep breath, explain one more time what we're about (with or without snark), and hope that perhaps we reach another person somewhere who's willing to consider an alternative to the status quo and step beyond their own comfort.

ntodd

(h/t aangus and noblejoanie)

26 comments:

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What NTodd said.

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michaelcavlan said...

Tell you what I see when I see Medea Benjamin. As an ordinary, working class peace and justice activist.

I see a trust fund baby, playing at being an activist.

Hey, Ralph Nader just published a book.

Only the Super Rich Can Save Us.

Perhaps Medea and her well heeled activist friends could read it and get a few ideas?

There are a lot of very poor activist groups out there that could us some help.

Adi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Reality Bytes said...

So CODE PINK, why did you ATTACK Nancy Pelosi when ALL she was trying to do was speak at one of YOUR EVENTS and give SUPPORT?

Your FILTHY ACTIONS toward Nancy Pelosi DISGUST ME, and YOU owe NANCY PELOSI and ALL OTHER TRUE PROGRESSIVE AMERICANS an APOLOGY!

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