logoEat - Drink - Protest

A culture blog by Lauren Girardin, a San Francisco-based city girl who eats out and kicks about.

March 21, 2003

War is In the Air

An e-mail sent to everyone I know.

My feet hurt.

Since Wednesday at 5 p.m. PST, the end of Bush's 48-hour deadline for Saddam Hussein and his sons to get out of Dodge, I have marched in about seven hours of peaceful protests. I've marched during a chilly, rainy night and during a tank-top warm, blue-sky day; with friends and by myself (though surrounded by thousands); while loudly shouting for peace and quietly holding a fist in the air; with helicopters buzzing over head and with dozens of police in riot gear watching from the sidewalk. I'm not done marching yet.

Almost all day yesterday, Thursday, March 20th, the streets of downtown San Francisco were closed off by tens of thousands of determined people, people who found they were not powerless if they acted together.

I'm lucky to be able to protest in San Francisco, a city with a remarkable history of activism that practically revels in its progressivism. This city certainly knows how to organize an impressive and effective demonstration, and I've never been happier to live here. However, it's not just San Francisco, but the entire world that's reeling under the intensity of massive international protests opposing the United States' preemptive war against Iraq. People everywhere have taken to the streets in a movement for peace.

There is no feeling more comforting in these confusing and appalling times than the knowledge that I am not alone in my hope for a quick end to this war. There is no finer sight than city streets practically empty of cars and SUVs, devoid of the sound of impatient honking, and clean for the lack of exhaust fumes from vehicles idling in traffic; streets instead filled with people abandoning apathy for action.

The major media's images of violent clashes between cops and protesters and of damage to businesses along the path of the demonstrations are propaganda. The protests in San Francisco have been almost entirely peaceful with any violent and contentious moments being an exception to the experience. About 1,400 people were arrested yesterday in San Francisco, mostly for non-violent actions and civil disobedience such as blocking building entrances and intersections. The protests and arrests continue on a smaller scale today, though sadly, brazen beatings by police have increased dramatically. That's the type of violence you won't often see on the 6 o'clock news.

The United States government claims it has entered into this war to create a more humane Iraq. I walk in anti-war protests to create a more humane United States. This is my patriotism.

I hold my country under the highest expectations of justice and democracy and am dismayed by and opposed to the government's use of preemptive aggression, diplomatic bullying, and financial bribery. Many countries around the world oppose the war though many foreign governments will not actively resist for fear of "offending Washington" and our large pocketbook and corporate coffers.

As I write, the local public radio station is reporting excessive violence and force being used against peaceful protesters in my city. As I write, U.S. and British forces have started the "shock and awe" campaign against the Iraqi people. As I write, a U.S. flag has been raised over a conquered Iraqi city, as if we now owned part of that country. As I write, world opinion exponentially grows against the United States.

As I write, there are many ways you can work for peace. These are just a few I consider most important:

1. Turn off the TV:
TV's repetitive violent images of the war can contribute to psychological harm, especially in children. More often than not, the news you are fed is not the truth, or at least not the complete truth. Instead, listen to your local public radio station (preferably a Pacifica station) for better information.

2. Act and Speak Out:
Do whatever you can, whatever you are comfortable doing. Just do something and do it now. Join a protest or a vigil, write letters and emails, make phone calls, or make a donation to an independent relief organization such as Oxfam. Two of the many sources for info on how to act and be heard are United for Peace or Act Against War.

3. Hang With Your Friends and Family:
By spending time with friends, family, and the larger community, you can have a tremendous, positive impact. Talk to people about your confusion, fears, anger, and hope. Listen to the concerns of others and be there for them.

Thanks for your tolerance of this expression of my views - especially if you don't share them. I'll happily return the favor or provide more information on the anti-war movement in San Francisco and elsewhere as best I can.

Peace is possible,