week I had a rare opportunity - to join several impressive speakers
on the "Bring
Them Home Now" tours northern route. Al Zappala,
whose son was killed in Iraq last year; Tammara Rosenleaf, whose
husband is due to deploy to Iraq this fall; Stacy Bannerman, whose
husband has already served a tour in Iraq; Carlos Arredondo, whose
son was killed during a second tour in Iraq; Elliott Adams, former
Army paratrooper in Viet Nam; and two Iraq war veterans: former
Marine, Michael Hoffman, and Cody Camacho, former Army Specialist.
At each stop
I was with them: Detroit, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany,
Amherst, and Boston, we explained what motivated us to be on the
tour. We condemned the war and ongoing occupation. We urged people
to attend the massive demonstrations planned for September 24-26
in Washington, D.C.
In each city
I saved part of my five minutes to go beyond urging participation
in the march and rally on the 24th, and plead for people
to consider participating in the civil disobedience planned for
the 26th as well. This quote from Howard Zinn was particularly
disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.
Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the
dictates of leaders
and millions have been killed because
of this obedience
Our problem is that people are obedient
all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity,
and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient
while the jails are full of petty thieves
(and) the grand
thieves are running the country. Thats our problem."
and Buffalo, two cities bordering Canada on opposite ends of Lake
Erie, it was easy to draw a historical connection to civil disobedience.
Both cities had a significant role in the Underground Railroad,
an activity in direct violation of the Fugitive Slave Act which
required the return of runaway "property" in the form
of human beings. I explained that the period just before the Civil
War also saw the emergence of spontaneous acts of civil disobedience
among citizens opposed to slavery, such as what happened when
the people of Urbana, Ohio freed an escaped slave from the custody
of federal marshals and sent the marshals packing.
As I was
speaking in Albany, however, I was struck by a bolt out of the
direct action is the most powerful tool we have to stop this war,
what is the best time to exercise it? When a few hundred people
surround the White House on September 26 for an orchestrated civil
disobedience activity, or when a half-million (and more) people
are in the streets September 24?
We have witnessed
people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union take to the
streets and nonviolently stay there to get rid of governments
which had ceased serving the public good - and weve applauded
we applaud the signers of the Declaration of Independence for
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted
among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the
governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive
of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new Government..."
King George is busy handing out thousands of death sentences to
our family members in America, and to many more of our family
members in Iraq. Can we ignore Saturdays singular opportunity
to say "ENOUGH!"? Are we so attached to comfort and
convenience that all we can muster is to march a few hours, listen
to some speakers, and go back home to watch the war on television?
Or will we decide to use our power when we actually have it? How
many people sitting in the streets of Washington for how many
days would it take to stop the madness in Iraq? What better time
to be outdoors in our capital than late September?
As that those
thoughts turned into speech in Albany, I realized I was proposing
something beyond the official program for this weekends
protest, and beyond what some people might be prepared to do on
September 24. I knew a clear, concise call would be needed to
explain the idea. It came to me in a flash: "Brothers
and sisters, this request is not part of the official program.
If you came to Washington for a legal march, please keep walking.
If you came to Washington to stop the war PLEASE SIT DOWN!"
those words in Washington on Saturday.
Ferner writes from Toledo, Ohio and can be reached at email@example.com.
On Saturday, in Washington, he will be walking near the front
of the march with Veterans