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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What A Difference A Year Makes In Protesting





For the past couple of months, I have been attending protests against the use of drones. I have attended these protests before such as last year. The difference between the protests this year and the ones from last year can be summed up in one word: attendance.

The number of protestors participating this year was less than half of those I saw last year. In particular, the age of the protestors involved also changed. While many of the protestors from before were old, the only ones protesting in the past couple of months are old. In fact, I said to a couple of fellow activists that I felt that the protest was a retirement home activity.

This isn't the first time I've seen a drop off in the number of demonstrators. Each of the first two protests I ever took part in, the years were 2005 and 2006, saw around 300,000 people in attendance. Now it would be unrealistic for anyone to expect that number of people at each protest, but the number of demonstrators attending dropped dramatically after the Democrats gained control of Congress in Fall of 2006. Since then, though there were occasionally well attended demonstrations, such as the last one concerning our environmental problems, the number of activists involved never approached the number of people again.

Now there are two points to make here after reflecting on what I just experienced. The first point regards the protesting against drones. In one way, the use of drones produces the same effect as conducting tax-free wars. That is because practices shield the public from some of war's effects. For example, when Bush conducted the unfunded wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, life went on pretty much the same for those of us who did not have family or close friends fighting in the battles. There was neither a draft nor rationing of goods, both of which have occurred in past wars. In addition, we saw no increase in our taxes because of the wars we were conducting.

Likewise, the use of drones shields us from another effect of war: casualties. Yes, there is an immediate benefit here to using drones both for those who serve and their families. But how does conducting wars without consequences stop our use of war or even reduce the number of them?

In the end, conducting unfunded wars and using drones allows us to win the immediate battles while losing our biggest challenge. The biggest battles consist of maintaining public support for the wars. Our biggest challenge is to end war. And while the realists legitimately point out that history teaches that ending war is only a pipe dream, present and future technology lecture us on a harsher reality. That is our continued dependence on wars will eventually lead to the use of WMDs. And once the use of WMDs are introduced into a conflict, there is little, if any, chance that we will survive because the use of WMDs will simply continue until there is no one left to use them. This is not just my opinion, it that of some well-known intellectuals and some retired military leaders since the 1950s.

The second point that the last 2 protests brings up is persistence. Occasional protests, regardless of how well-attended, produce few, if any, results. Unless we persist in activism, the status quo will remain secure. And that status quo consists of manipulating society and its systems for the benefit of those with wealth and power. It isn't the everyday person who benefits from war. Rather, they are usually the ones who pay the highest price for it. It is those who profit from the sale of weapons, other goods and services who benefit from war. 

Making the public believe that they are shielded from the pain of war, as what occurs when either wars go unfunded or using drones, results in fewer people being interested in demonstrating and resisting the wars. In addition, fewer people feel the urgency to to even investigate our policies and reconsider their current personal positions on war. After all, when life is good, don't fix it is the attitude of many. Thus, the shielding of the public from the effects of war has given too many of us a servere case of myopia.  

Simply put, if we are to survive, we must put aside any feelings of hopelessness in order to continue to publicly voice our concerns. Personally, I myself haven't been able to consistently participate in activism for a while because of multiple issues. So, on the one hand, we must not rush to judge those whom we no longer see at the demonstratios. On the other hand, we must see the need to make activism a way of life rather than just a hobby. Democracy demands that we constantly do what we can to control our government. For if we don't control our government, someone else will. And as the Occupy Movement has shown, that someone else who now controls our government are those with wealth and power.

To make activism a way of life, we need to follow what Martin Luther King Jr. said while speaking against the Vietnam War. He stated that when we make profits, gadgets, and property rights more important than people, we are a thing-oriented society. And for as long as we are a thing-oriented society we will not just continue to fight wars, we will be enabling racism. So those of us who oppose war must change from being thing-oriented to being person-oriented if we are going to show others what to do.



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