November 10, 2006

On Protesting

I have started re-reading a book that inspired me a lot the first time I read it. Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz is a wonderful read; it's easy, it's engaging, and it even has a couple cartoons.

And it's very, very deep.

I've been thinking a lot about poverty lately, about social justice and social action and all the protesting that goes on. Then I ran across this, and ... well, you'll see what I mean.


"Earlier that afternoon ... my friend Andrew the Protester and I went downtown to protest a visit by the President. I felt that Bush was blindly supporting the World Bank and, to some degree, felt the administration was responsible for what was happening in Argentina. Andrew and I had made signs and showed up a few hours early. Thousands of people had already gathered, most of them protesting our policy towards Iraq. Andrew and I took pictures of ourselves in front of the cops, loads of cops, all in riot gear like storm troopers from Star Wars.

Andrew's sign said "Stop America's Terroism" - he spelled 'terrorism' wrong. I felt empowered in the sea of people, most of whom were also carrying signs and chanting against corporations who were making slaves of Third World labor; and the Republican Party, who gives those corporations so much power and freedom. I felt so far from my upbringing, from my narrow former self, the me woh was taught the Republicans give a crap about the cause of Christ. I felt a long way from the pre-me, the pawn-Christian who was a Republican because my family was Republican, not because I had prayed and asked God to enlighten me about issues concerning the entire world rather than just America.

When the president finally whowed, things got heated. The police mounted horses and charged them into the crowd to push us back. We shouted, in unison, that a horse is not a weapon, but they didn't listen. The president's limo turned the corner so quickly I thought he might come tumbling out, and his car was followed by a caravan of shiny black vans and Suburbans. They shuttled him around to a back door where we watched through a chain-link fence as he stepped out of his limousine, shook hands with dignitaries, and entered the building amid a swarm of secret service agents. I was holding my sign very high in case he looked our way.

The President gave his speech inside the hotel and left through a side door, and they whisked him away before we co uld shake hands or explain our concerns. When we were done, I started wondering if we had accomplished anything. I started wondering whether we could actually change the world. I mean, of course we could - we could change our buying habits, elect socially conscious representatives and that sort of thing, but I honestly don't believe we will be solving the greater human conflict with our efforts. The problem is not a certain type of legislation or even a certain politician; the problem is the same that it has always been.

I am the problem.

I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems in the world on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest. ...

More than my questions about the efficacy of social action were my questions about my own motives. Do I want social justice for the oppressed, or do I just want to be known as a socially active pesron? I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about myself anyway. I don't have to watch the evening news to see that the world is bad, I have only to look at myself. I am not browbeating myself here; I am only saying that true change, true life-giving, God-honoring change would have to start with the individual. I was the very problem I had been protesting."

Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz pgs. 18-20


Tony Myles said...

Gotta love that guy's transparency... helps us to have some of our own.

Chris said...

I rather agree.