Monday, October 03, 2005

Purpose In Marching

Dear Mr. Wolcott, and Mr. Kos:
My answer now, I think, would boil down to "exhiliration," or maybe "carnival"—to one of those unruly quantities that make the consultants and consultant wannabes and the policy hacks feel all dirty, or (worse!) irrelevant. Protests are "obsolete," Markos? They can't change anything? Well, one thing I know inescapably is that protests change the people who do them. It couldn't have mattered less that the Big Media sights weren't trained on us, or what impression anybody not on those streets might have taken from whatever coverage was given. A hundred thousand, or two hundred, or three, of your countrymen last weekend spent a few hours of their lives, some of them for the very first time, embodying democracy. Not spectating it, not commentating it, not buying access to it—but being it, in the most direct way possible. Is it a small thing to know, in your bones, in the soles of your feet, that your citizenship belongs to you? Is it a small thing that a hundred thousand or more Americans came back home from their capital this week, came back to their communities with that knowledge? Ready, many of them, to spread it? Not a small thing at all, in my book.

Democracy is foolish, loud, ill-disciplined, inexclusive, undignified. It doesn't make a good conference panelist. It is never on message. People walk down a street, and somebody starts a chant, and in embarrassed good will you take it up for a while. And weary of it, get self-conscious again, and it peters out. And then after a while somebody somewhere else starts up another one. That's our silly, raggedy-ass democracy, and it's all we've got. God bless it.


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