January 9, 2010

Protesting Works! (and not much of anything else does...)

[Crossposted from the Iraq Moratorium website.]

It’s no surprise that the anti-war movement is in a lull. The war in Afghanistan this month passes the War of Independence to become the second longest in US history. Thanks to a feeble news media, many in this country don’t even know that there are still 120,000 US occupation troops in Iraq (and about as many “private contractors” your tax dollars are paying for).

Now Barack Obama, the 2008 “peace candidate” whose victory drew heavily on support from voters sick of these wars, is sending 30,000 more young men and women into harm’s way in a country where drone attacks kill kids and create new insurgents on a weekly basis.

Many who have organized against and demonstrated against the wars since 2002 are worn out and hear the mournful strains of the old “protest is just self-indulgent and ineffective” song in their mind’s ear.

Well, folks, let me present to you the students in the California.higher education system and their allies: teachers, staff, parents and the community at large. They started fighting budget cuts last spring and in November, when the U of C trustees announcedan additional 32% increase in tuition, they erupted in militant protest, closing classes, seizing buildings and blocking traffic.

The authorities responded with police attacks and arrests, while denouncing the students as selfish and spoiled for failing to do their part to help with the state’s budget crisis. Politicians and media mouthpieces tut-tutted about their strident language and inappropriate tactics.

Guess what? On Wednesday, Republican governor Arnold Schwarznegger proposed an amendment to the California constititution prohibiting the state from spending more on its prisons than its educational system, a long-standing practice in the state. He proclaimed that “choosing universities over prisons” would be “a historic and transforming realignment of California’s priorities.”

And what made the Governator change his tune? His chief of staff spilled the beans to the NY Times: “Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point. Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”

Let’s savor that: “Those protests...were the tipping point.”

We may not be close to the tipping point that will end the occupations, but let’s not get sidetracked. The more we protest, the sooner the tipping point will be reached. The more we shrug and sigh, the longer the killing and dying, the waste of lives and money will go on.

As the Moratorium slogan says: It’s Got To Stop. We’ve Got To Stop It.

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