Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This Is What Democracy Looks Like! More than 50 Activists Visit Sanders With a Simple Message: No More War Funding! Eight Arrested

Okay, okay, I’m home, I’ve read my mail and, by what sure seems like popular demand: here’s some snark to hold you over for a little while this evening.

My previously scheduled cold-like symptoms got me yet another day off the painting clock to practice a little more democracy. Hey, what can I say, I’m blessed with a boss who “gets it,” and, with a wink and nod, told me within earshot of the rest of the crew to do what I needed to get better. Well, there’s nothing better for a faux-cold than a trip to Burlington and a visit to your elected officials office – all in the name of stopping this goddamn war.

This time, the fun gang of about 50 made our way to Senator Bernie Sanders’ office to demand that he vote against any and all legislation that would continue to fund this war beyond what is needed to bring the troops home now, provide necessary reparations to Iraq, and give every bit of support to the troops once they get home.

For some reason, there are all kinds of liberal ninnies out there who bristle when folks practice democracy. Interestingly, they want us to shut the hell up and “just wait until Bush leaves office.” Oh, okay, and how nice that must be to sit in your non-bombed out communities and make that ever-so-slow assessment of how to end the most brutal, illegal and unjust war in modern history. Even their fellow lib, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, has been scoffing at this silly notion that the “go slow” crowd has been throwing around about “how terrible things would be if we just left now.” Well, Friedman correctly asked recently, how do we know that things won’t get BETTER if we leave?

I mean, come on, everything the war supporters have said about this war has been wrong, wrong and wrong. Yeah, you remember the “flowers and candy” that the troops were supposed to receive at the beginning of this mess, don’t you? To say nothing of WMDs, 9/11 connections and the like.

For all we know, Friedman concluded, things could get much better if we left now. Yep.

But don’t tell that to Vermont’s elected officials with the power of the federal purse – Leahy, Sanders and Welch. Because they’re apparently so fucking scared of the “support the troops” nonsense that they’re willing to throw more money at this war with the mere hope that Bush – Bush! – will abide by their kinda-sorta pleas and end the war based on some super-nebulous timeline.

But we’re being billed as the crazies. Go figure. Plus, you gotta love it when the do-nothing crowd – oops, they still love their candle vigils – get all pissed off when people actually take the time and the risks to practice the beautiful art of democracy. I mean, these people are seemingly threatened by the fact that dozens of people took time off work, organized themselves, and marched to an elected officials office to voice their concerns and demand action. Excuse me, but what exactly is the problem here? Silly me, I thought this is what we were fighting to give the Iraqis – you know, that weird thing called democracy.

I knew Bernie’s staff would be in full angry spin mode today. Trust me, there’s nothing Bernie and his staff hate more than grassroots people acting in concert without bowing to the Bernie-God first. If he’s not getting his ass kissed, Bernie’s gonna kick yours. Period. Worse, he’s gonna throw one of his Bernie tantrums and either berate you – as long as the cameras aren’t around – or ignore you and claim he’s “really, really busy.”

Bernie chose the ignoring route today. Instead of speaking for himself, he put his flunkies front and center to meet and greet us. And how interesting it was that none other than Bernie-staffer Phil Fiermonte was the one assigned to usher us into the room, look as bored as he possibly could and attempt to spin us dizzy with all kinds of bullshit about “trying really hard” to stop this war.

As someone in the crowd pointed out, Fiermonte was, in his real activist days, one of the “radicals” who occupied Senator Staffords’ office in the early 1980’s to protest the funding for the Iran/Contra war. Back then, young Phil thought it was “outrageous” that a Vermont senator would continue to fund an unjust war. In fact, he thought it was so unjust that the once-idealistic Phil got arrested for occupying Staffords’ office because Stafford didn’t give him or 43 other co-defendants the assurance they wanted that he was going to end the nonsense in Central America.

Oh boy, how times change. Because today’s Phil Fiermonte is the man with the power and the right-hand-man of the senator spinning the bullshit. It didn’t faze old Phil, however. When asked about the irony, he just gave the old “this side is more lucrative” smile and refused to discuss his twenty-something-year switch from idealistic activist to spinmeister for the senator who won’t vote to end the funding for the war NOW. The times, they are a’changing….

Unlike Welch, Sanders wasn’t going anywhere near a conversation with the democracy-practicing activists, instead leaving his office minions to sit and try to uncomfortably entertain our queries and demands. In the end, the demands were not met, Bernie did not want to be sullied with conversing with his constituents - including two Iraq vets -- and eight people were arrested for not leaving when the workday ended at the Sanders’ compound.

For me, it was a very uplifting day of solidarity. The young – 9-month old, nine-year old, college students, middle-aged, and – ahem – old folks, too – gathered to chat, laugh, learn and be heard. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s just too bad so many other people are willing to sit on their asses, complain from the cheap seats and lull themselves to sleep with the false notion that our elected officials are there to represent us without hearing from us. Whatever.

If our democracy is good enough to “import” to Iraq, what’s wrong with practicing it in Burlington?

The movement is alive. And I feel fine.


Snarky Boy