Monday, August 30, 2004

Feeding My Inner Protester - part 1

After arriving into Newark on Saturday morning, I made my way via various forms of public transportation, 2 carry-ons and 1 large bag in tow, to my friend's apartment in Brooklyn. I settled in, got my subway map out and figured out how to get to The Brooklyn Bridge, which would be the site of the March For Women's Lives abortion rights rally and march over the bridge. It would be my first such event.

We were to gather at 11am and march at 12pm. I got there at about 11:20am amid throngs arriving already armed with "I heart pro choice New York" signs. I was handed a sign and a bottle of water and made my way to the far end of Cadman Plaza where the rally was about to begin. Before the march itself, we heard from several speakers, some local elected officials who have helped make New York one of the most fiercely pro-choice states, one local pro-choice minister fed up with the religious right, which he sees as "neither religious nor right," and a female trio called Betty who served up a medley of patriotic songs reworked with a feminist bent. Interspersed were chants that ranged from the issue oriented "what do we want? choice! when do we want it? now!" to the anti-Bush "hey hey ho ho, George Bush has got to go!"

Overall, as you might expect, the rally did morph into an anti-Bush and anti-Republican rally. I had originally wondered if I would see pro-choice Republicans there, since they do exist -- pro-choice is the majority position in the country after all. But if there were Bush supporters there, they laid extremely low, the proverbial Red Sox fans in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium. In fact there wasn't even any counter protest to be seen. And so there we all were, united in our support of abortion rights and our disgust for George W. Bush, a president who not only has claimed to be pro-life, but has acted on it by signing into law the unconstitutional "partial birth abortion ban," widely seen as the first step to eroding the right to a safe and legal abortion as guaranteed by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. The unity was palpable and was evident in the orderly and surprisingly patient way in which our enormous group went from a huge blob in a park to a narrow line marching 2 by 2 up the stairs onto the bridge and over it.

And while I did feel a part of the event, some of the rhetoric did turn me off and seemed a bit unnecessarily nasty. For all the complaining of liberals that conservatives insist on seeing the world in black and white while we see the shades of gray and the complexity of issues, you would not have known it at Cadman Plaza that day. Sure the rhetoric was anti-Bush and anti-pro-lifers and anti-far religious right, but there were chants aimed at Republicans at large and at Christians at large, ignoring the fact that pro-choice Republicans exist and reinforcing the stereotype from the right that liberals are anti-religion. I do understand that it was a rally and that the efficiency of language that a chanter must necessarily employ does not lend itself to the expression of complexity, it kept me a bit at arm's length from the proceedings.

What I was most impressed with, however, was that there was such a strong movement for an issue that is currently the law of the land and has both the stamp of approval by the Supreme Court and the support of the majority of the country. It is a movement based on the threat of revocation of rights, not the desire for new ones, yet there was not an ounce of complacency on view that day. Not with George Bush in the White House and not, as one speaker reminded us, with the probablity that the next president will be in a position to replace up to 3 pro-choice Supreme Court justices. It was yet another reminder of the way in which this president has united the left. The unity that was on display among the delegates in Boston in support of Kerry/Edwards is just as palpable in New York in opposition of Bush/Cheney. It's there not only at a protest, but it's there in storefronts and it's there on people's clothes riding the subway.


Post a Comment

<< Home