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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

(or other places to find my writings from the mundane to the supermundane)
  • The Magic of Yellowstone
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  • Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective)
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    Tuesday, February 06, 2024

    Chakradance Classes in Bozeman starting February 17

    Check out my revamped Chakradance website at https://dance.intimacycadre.org for details and to register.  I am very happy to be offering this in Bozeman again.  Classes start February 17, 2024 and run for nine weeks. It is a pay what you can model (suggested $200 for the course). Some drop ins may be available. Full details on the site :).



    Tuesday, January 09, 2024

    The BAD PODCAST - Dance with Us (Like, Right Now)!

    This is the podcast to watch and dance to (not simply to listen to). Aly and I (Jim) show an hour of us dancing in public so you can see what it looks and feels like. Between sets, we talk about dancing, how you can dance with us, and just what goes on in the Bozeman streets. We are dancing Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at Soroptomist Park (at Main and Rouse) in Bozeman from 5-6 PM (and probably again on January 17 same time and place). If you are watching this after those dates and want to dance, contact us at https://www.bozemanantifadance.org or by email at bozemanantifa@gmail.com.

    We had so much fun dancing (and had a dancer join us briefly). Please consider getting out of your chair and dancing along with us!

    We’d love for you to check out the musical artists that make up the playlist we were dancing to. For the entire playlist in order (and a half dozen bonus tunes), check out our podcast playlist on Spotify. Unfortunately, because of some copyright claims that some of the artists put on some of our songs, five of the songs had to be cut down significantly and muted, but you still get about 45 minutes of us dancing. The tunes that appear in this podcast in order (artist – song):

    Set 1
    1. Girl and Girl – “Dance Now” (trimmed down to about 15 seconds and muted)
    2. Ella Andall – “Rhythm of a People”
    3. Car Seat Headrest – “Fill in the Blank” (trimmed down to about 15 seconds and muted)

    Set 2
    4. Madison Cunningham – “Hospital (One Man Down)” (Featuring Remi Wolf) (trimmed down to about 15 seconds and muted)
    5. Talking Heads – “Blind” (trimmed down to about 15 seconds and muted)
    6. deep tan – “diamond horsetail”
    7. Delores Forever – “Why Are You Not Scared Yet?”
    8. Melody Angel – “Blues In My Hands”

    Set 3
    9. Too Many Zooz – “Funky Christmas” (Featuring Big Freedia)
    10. The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” (trimmed down to about 15 seconds and mutued)
    11. David Byrne – “Help Me Somebody”
    12. Propaganda – “Gentrify”
    13. Dj Farrapo – “Marcianito” (Cristina Renzetti Vocal Version)

    Set 4
    14. Shungudzo – “It’s a good day (to fight the system)”
    15. Sir Woman – “Party City”
    16. Bully – “Every Tradition”

    Finally, we do have an audio-only version of the podcast, though for once, we don’t recommend it since the entire point of this podcast is to see and or get a fuller experience of what street dancing looks like. Even if for some reason, you are vision impaired, only the video-only version contains full music that you can dance along with. However, if you really just want to hear us talk for 35 minutes, here you go – we do have very short musical interludes in this version.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2023

    Dance with Us Every Wednesday!

     


    (download pdf flyer; download hi-res image) BAD is dancing every Wednesday over the next four weeks (11/29, 12/6/, 12/13, 12/20)! Join us at these free dances. You don’t need to know how to dance.  We just dance. ALL DANCING IS GOOD DANCING! There are some things you should know or some questions you might have, and so check out our FAQ for more information. The dancing keeps us hot! However, you should still dress for the weather :).

    Here we are dancing recently just to give you an idea of what it’s like to dance with us :).


    Monday, October 16, 2023

    Backyard Community Theater with Warmth from The 408

    October 13, 2023, was such a frigid night on the remarkable backyard stage/skate ramp – christened “The 408” – hosted by Phaidra and Ryan, and yet I could not feel warmer in my heart to be performing with my friends.

    Many people have this idea that artistic performance is only for those who can do it well. As an example, when my best friend Aly and I dance in public, we frequently hear some variation from passersby of “I can’t dance.” And when I perform improv on stage, I hear, “I could never do that.” Not immune to this idea myself, it is common for me to cringe at the pitchy sound of my voice singing.

    Moreover, not only do the performers need to meet some standard of being good enough to perform, but also we assume that we must go to specific places for performance. We spend a lot of money to go to the movies, the playhouse, or the dance club. The idea that we can just break out into a song and dance routine anywhere sounds ludicrous, and it is even more so if you don’t have some special talent to pull it off.

    The biggest reason why seems to be an overwhelming fear of judgment and humiliation from others or even perhaps oneself. We are so trained as to what is acceptable both in terms of societal behavior as well as the standard of acceptable quality that we are beyond hesitant to put ourselves on the line. If we do put ourselves publicly out there, it is usually in places considered safer for it, probably supplemented by a few drinks. On the dance floor, I often see it fill up only when dozens of people join at the very same time.

    I would argue that this fear that keeps us back is an incredibly significant detriment to our quality of life. Break through the fear, and you will feel happier and more empowered regardless of who joins you. But if more did join us, society would see profound shifts across the board. At a minimum, we will feel much more joyful.

    For some time, Aly and I have been involved in a community project – a two-person group – that we have called the Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective) – shortened to the cheeky acronym BAD. People’s eyes fixate on “Antifa;” obviously we know that they will. We know what a trigger word that is for right wingers, and just having that name in our group has been enough for people to give us death threats. While we are satirizing the idea that antifa needs to look and feel a certain way, of course we are stridently antifascist and have no tolerance for it in our community. We support anyone who acts against fascists and fascism. Yet, we are a dance and theatre collective. By tying dance and theatre to antifascism, we are making a further commentary about fascism and its dangers to our society. Fascism to us does not simply mean the racism and bigotry of neo-Nazis; it also refers to the radical conformity to particular norms that dominate our society. That conformity by itself is not fascist, but it lays the groundwork for a fundamentally fascist, unfree society. It leads us to limit our beliefs in what is possible for ourselves and for other people. BAD believes that if we publicly open ourselves up to free and creative expression without thought of how well it conforms to any particular societal standard while also opening up more spaces for that expression within society, we shall remove the ground that fascism needs for standing. Moreover, we will have a lot more fun, friendship, and connection.

    Over time, as Aly and I have continued to free dance in public spaces, we have made more friends who want to play with us. One of these friends is a remarkable woman named Phaidra. Aly and Phaidra were in a show together at The Verge, and I met Phaidra through Aly. While BAD was doing our thing dancing everywhere in our colorful outfits, Phaidra and her partner Ryan were building a skate ramp in the backyard of their home. Only, it was not just a skate ramp; Phaidra, ever the free thinker, could see that the skate ramp could also serve as a perfect stage. With Ryan’s support, they figured out how to light the ramp at night. Their space allows for multiple angles to view any staging and includes various ways to enter and exit. Moreover, Phaidra had a vision where the community could come together in a judgment-free zone to perform. Basically, she shared BAD’s vision to radically democratize performance both in terms of accessibility of who can perform and where they can perform.

    We obviously have all become fast friends, and so also including our larger set of friends, we have all decided to dance and put on shows together while also really connecting intentionally as friends who care deeply about each other. It has become infectious, and we have met others who feel the delight in doing something that is way outside the box and fills us each with incredible joy.

    Last Friday, Phaidra and Ryan hosted the first open stage night. While it was cold, we stayed physically warm with a fire that Ryan built and some hot apple cider and tea. What really kept us warm, though, was performing with and for each other on this beautiful stage. Phaidra opened “The 408” with a beautiful and intimate speech thanking us for our part in making this happen and outlining the same vision I have outlined in this essay.

    Then, a few of us did a little experimental skit that I won’t explain here because we don’t want to ruin the surprise of you seeing us on the streets of town doing it. Let’s just say that it mixes ragtime music and hacker Anonymous (that is, Guy Fawkes) masks.

    Also, The 408 open stage featured remarkable poem readings, both original and unoriginal, all meaning a lot to the performer. One reading, by our newest and incredibly delightful friend Clara, came with some lovely performative flourishes.

    Aly sang beautifully while I interpretively danced behind her, not knowing what she was singing prior to her singing it. This was not easy for me. Aly trained in her youth as an opera singer and meets the societally objective standards of a “good” singer, while I only started dancing at all in my late 30s. Besides a few swing dancing classes, no one ever trained me to dance. My body is terribly inflexible, and I don’t even like to keep the beat a good chunk of the time, inventing beats out of each melodic note. I love to dance, but I still found it difficult to go out there to a song I had never heard before behind someone as incredibly talented as Aly. Yet, I chose to live my principle, and I felt good supporting her knowing she wanted me to dance as she sang. It felt good just trying it out knowing that we were in a space attempting to create a culture of support. And while people said I did a good job, what really matters is that I chose to show up and be me on that stage with my friends.

    We also did some improv, which put Aly outside of her comfort zone. But just as I supported her, she supported something I enjoy doing and had just done on stage the previous night at Last Best Comedy.

    Performing continued after everyone left, too, when Aly, Phaidra, and I did some incredibly moving improvisational dance, much of it to Alanis Morissette.

    Was any of it any good? Who can say? But I can say definitively that it was good to be there with people who really wanted to be there and present with each other. It was so cold, hiding beneath blankets. Yet, in the power of the sharing, in the earnestness of witnessing each other, in just the audacity of performing for ourselves and for each other, I became so overwhelmed with joyful emotion.

    After we left, apparently a neighbor had called the police, though we were done by 10 pm on a Friday night, were not using a sound system except a Bluetooth speaker to play some music, and apparently were not as loud as nearby neighbors sometimes are at later hours. Honestly, I could barely hear what people were saying from the stage mere feet in front of me. I am not sure why this neighbor could not have just come over. If they are reading it, it is not our intention to violate any boundaries. Let us just talk so that we can make it work for everyone. Just as we do not need to resort to the authority of society to tell us where we can and cannot dance, we surely can work out our issues over what can and cannot happen from each other’s backyards. As an antifascist, it tells me we have a long ways to go before we can undo the ways we have become alienated from each other in a radically conformist society.

    We are going to keep dancing in public, and we are going to keep doing theatrical productions in backyards and on Bozeman streets. Whether it is Aly and I doing BAD or whether it is friends just tap dancing in the rain, we are determined to make our lives much more interesting and performative. We want to free our bodies to reclaim the entirety of our human nature. With free bodies in free spaces and with a growing community of support, we make it that much easier to inspire others to create a freely embodied culture – one where we are no longer limited by the fears that keep us conformed to a rather uninteresting set of societally acceptable options.

    If this resonates with you, contact me, and we would love to have you join us dancing, singing, performing, writing, painting, screaming, crawling, or whatever your heart fancies. And if you only want at this point to witness, we could all use more friends. Let us all make beautiful art … together. Even on literally cold nights, we can dramatically thrive in a much warmer space.

    ***Click on picture to see full image***

    Monday, September 25, 2023

    Anarchism Is a Social, not a Political Movement

     When I ask most people how they define the word “anarchy,” they inevitably tell me that it means “chaos.”

    However, anarchy doesn’t mean chaos; it literally means “without rulers.” We anarchists believe in a society without rulers, but that’s a broader idea than simply “without government.” That is because there are many ways some people rule over others than simply through presidents, prime ministers, and kings. Business owners and managers rule over their workers, and we anarchists are against that. Landlords rule over their tenants, and we anarchists are against that. Men in our world have traditionally ruled over women (whether that be husbands over wives, or just in the advantages and privileges that men have had over women), and we anarchists are against that. White people have ruled over people of color, and we anarchists are against that. Because of rules and social advantages, straight people have ruled over queer people, and we anarchists are against that. Able-bodied people have also ruled over disabled people, and we anarchists are against that. In most societies, people of particular religious beliefs have ruled over those with other religious beliefs, and we anarchists are also against that.

    There are so many other power relationships, but I will define it in those broad terms right now.

    As a result, being an anarchist is to be against hierarchies of power wherever they may be. Anarchism as a movement is anti-government, anti-nationalist, anti-capitalist, anti-property rights, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-heteronormative, anti-ableist, and anti-theocratic.

    I suspect that many who read this would probably also be against many – though not all – of those things. If I had to venture a guess about society, most of us aspire not to discriminate based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, or religious beliefs. We clearly know of people who don’t believe in or want these ideals, but I suspect most do. However, I also suspect that most people in the world are, unlike anarchists, for representative democracy, are proud of their country, support some form of capitalism, and certainly believe in a right to property.

    Wherever you are on the spectrum from anarchist to whatever the opposite of anarchism is, what is important to note here is that anarchism isn’t simply about being against all government. Rather, it is a critique on the nature of power relationships. We who are anarchists do not believe there is any just society structured around hierarchical relationships of power, and we have called for a social revolution to dismantle them.

    How does anarchism propose to dismantle hierarchies of power and bring on a social revolution? Do anarchists imagine a rebellion of the repressed people to lead a mass uprising over the many ruling classes? Or perhaps, anarchists plan to use the existing levers of power to take power themselves and then cede it? Or maybe anarchists hope to disengage from political life altogether and convince people also to disengage, bringing about social revolution apart from society? Or maybe a particular class of the oppressed are best positioned, such as the working class and poor, to rise up and lead us all to social revolution?

    Over history, some anarchists have tried some of these approaches, and others, such as using the levers of the system, have typically been rejected. Historically, a few anarchists have tried military solutions or other forms of militancy. Others have set up radical education systems, and still others have focused on organizing the working class not simply for better conditions for workers but principally to be a catalyst of social revolution for the benefit of everyone. There is no one anarchist approach to social revolution. However, what has typically been rejected has been running for office, forming political parties, or voting. Anarchists have feared that using the levers of power will only lead to new rulers, and anarchist rulers are not anarchists at all.

    When I talk about anarchism with people, one of the common responses I get is that they, she, or he does not want to talk about politics. An anarchist does not want to talk about politics, either. However, it can seem like we do because it is impossible to talk about a ruling class without critiquing the politics that creates a ruling class. And yet, when I meet those who have no interest in politics, I often admire them. I wish we all could be so lucky and privileged as to be able to ignore the question. In most of our lives, we deal with and want to deal with each other as equals worthy of the same respect. However, in a society where we are not all so privileged, we must admit that we live in a system where some rule and others do not.  That is, we live in a world where politics is a reality. What makes anarchism different from other social movements that critique our society is that we do not believe in a political solution to the problem of politics.

    What do I mean?

    I mean that politics is essentially about power. To know how to gain power over others is to practice politics. As I have defined it, anarchism is a critique of systems of power themselves. That is, we can say that at essence, anarchism is anti-political. Yet, I admit that we live in a political world where politics is a reality. Are anarchists also, therefore, anti-reality? Certainly, many critics have indeed argued that, but this is a fallacy.

    Politics is a reality, but it does not mean that it must necessarily be real or that all of reality is politics. That is, we can also observe in our world many instances where we do not engage with each other through a power relationship. When I say “Hi” to my best friend Aly, and she says “Hi” back, are we engaging in politics? Yes, I identify as male; and she, female. I also have more money, and she has less. However, does she reply to me with a kind hello because I am empowered over her? That would be an extremely cynical understanding of the world, and I would be hard pressed to believe it. In most of life, none of us acts on the basis of any political relationships that exist in society. We know that those that do can be very dominating, whether it be a police or military force, the tax collector, one’s boss or landlord, etc. However, most of the time, whatever relationships exist, we do not act on the basis of our power. Those relationships and privileges are there, but we would be silly to the point of absurdity to think that even a fraction of what we do is because of politics.

    Therefore, politics is a reality, but so are many other ways of relating to each other. Anarchism is therefore not anti-real just because it is anti-politics. What anarchists are strongly urging is that the greater the degree to which politics is in our life, the more it is keeping us from fully exercising all the other relationships that are or can be real in our society. That is, anarchism urges that if we lean into those non-political ways of relating, we will find that we can make politics irrelevant. As I noted previously, almost everyone agrees that at least in some ways we have political relationships with each other (between genders, races, etc.) that most people agree should ideally not be political relationships. Yet, the most common way that people in society have used to deal with these social issues is to engage in other political solutions, usually to change laws or to create economic incentives for change. However, what if we did not need to do these things this way at all? What if there were other ways of living and being that make politics irrelevant? Since we agree that a man and a woman can have a non-political way of relating even though we live in a world where men politically rule over women, we must admit at least that anarchism should not be dismissed out of hand for suggesting that a social revolution requires a non-political response to politics as a way to free us from it.

    In this essay, I am not here to discuss how that’s supposed to come about. Ultimately, I’d love to give full expression to what that means, though I am doubtful I would most likely do that in writing. I am much more likely to express it through non-political lived experience that demonstrates anarchist ways of being. However, that is not to say that anarchism cannot be articulated. I just am not sure how much appetite I have to do it.

    What I am here to do is simply argue for viewing the world through a lens that doesn’t automatically assume that there are political solutions to political problems. And because of that, I don’t want people to assume that when I talk or write about anarchism that I am writing principally about politics. Yes, it is about politics in that it is a critique of politics, but ultimately, anarchism is a social movement that aims to free us from politics. It’s about people and how they relate to each other in all ways and at all levels. It’s, yes, about dismantling the politics that keep people from free and equal relationships, but the ways to get there have nothing to do with the usual means people use. And I’d love to talk about my way of being an anarchist because I suspect it will be delightful and inspiring.

    Yes, I realize we will need to discuss all we disagree about; there is much talking to do. However, if we can see through the usual tunnel vision in which we look at most social problems, perhaps there is a deluge of art and creativity to swim in as we demonstrate the social revolution envisioned by anarchism.

    Thursday, September 21, 2023

    I Hate the Police (September 2021)

    I wrote this poem in September 2021, reading it at an open mic poetry night over at the Steep Mountain Tea House. It was in response to police brutality here in Bozeman.

    I hate the police
    I hate police passionately
    Never met a cop I liked
    Hate how they beat black men in the streets
    With my own eyes, I once witnessed
    More than a dozen DC police
    Beating one black man
    Now they also hog tie women
    Here in our town
    Here in Bozeman
    But what I hate more than police
    I hate that we think we need them
    I hate that we think we have no power
    To take care of each other
    To protect each other
    To stand for justice together
    I hate the radical disempowerment
    The powerlessness that people feel
    And I hate that when another cop
    Assaults another person
    We think there are just a few bad apples
    Not that the system is rotten
    Not that we have given up our power
    To them
    To these abusive monsters
    I hate the police
    And I hate that we think
    That collectively
    We can’t do anything about them
    I hate that I will share this poem
    And you, you who sit there
    If you’re even listening
    Will think my radical words
    Unrealistic
    Somehow, humans lived 150,000 years
    And only dreamed up police
    In the 1800s to protect property in the North
    To protect slaveholders in the South

    And we think this is normal
    That we can’t live without them
    That we need them to protect us!
    Less than 200 years wipes out 150,000
    Just like that
    That I’m the radical one
    When there’s nothing normal
    Sane, or conservative about a
    Militarized police force

    And sadder still, you’ll think that

    We are powerless
    That solidarity is useless
    That we can’t possibly do anything
    Such a self-fulfilling prophecy
     
    Or you’ll vote
    You’ll vote for someone else
    To take the power from you
    And hopefully do the right thing
    And when they don’t
    You’ll vote again
    And again
    And again
    And what will ever change
    When did any significant change
    Happen by voting?
    What if MLK and Gandhi had decided
    To wait for someone else
    To make change and simply vote
     
    So, I hate the police
    And I hate that so few of us
    Believe in us
    In all we can do together
     
    But I still believe
    So, if you still believe
    Find me, and let’s get to work

    -jsm 9/24/2021

     

    Wednesday, September 20, 2023

    The BAD PODCAST – Antifa as Revolutionary Nonconformity in Dance, Theater, and Respect for Unhoused Neighbor



    This is our 10th episode, and we (Aly and Jim) go into our roots as an antifa dance (& theatre) collective, discussing why we believe what we do in street dancing, art, and theater are revolutionary antifascist activities just as vital to a revolutionary movement as other forms of direct action. We play around with surrealism, too, but we also discuss our broader interests. As full humans, movement and expression is vital to us, but just as we rebel against limiting forms of activist expression, we do not limit our activism to art. In that light, we discuss a recent essay that Jim wrote against an urban camping ordinance proposed here and the general lack of respect people who don’t have homes receive. The thread of all our discussion is breaking patterns of conformity in all aspects of our existence.

    If you listen to this episode in the week it is published, we invite you to a public street dance (no cost, no dancing experience, no fascists) at Bozeman’s Soroptomist Park on Saturday, September 16, 2023, at 11 AM. If you can’t make it, contact us and suggest times that may work for you (or organize a dance and invite us!)

    Tuesday, September 19, 2023

    U.S. Militarism on the Mall - protest while outreaching for alternatives (originally published May 8, 2005)

    I wrote this on May 8, 2005 (slightly modified on May 9). It really is a typical report of small actions we in the DC Anti-War Network would do and the kind of reports I would write about them. - jsm September 19, 2023

    ***

    A report by on DC Anti-War Network's (DAWN)'s action at the Department of Defense's military display on the National Mall. At these displays, young children actually played with unloaded military weapons. Also, a brief report from DAWN's and MGJ's action honoring the successful hunger strike by students in Georgetown fighting for a living wage for school workers.

    Today, we had an intense little action on the Mall, where the government was celebrating public servant's week, and where the Department of Defense set up shop to show its toys to the world.

    We caused a stir out there today, and I want to thank Jose for suggesting this idea. It was well worth it.

    About a dozen of us (counting comers and goers) were out on the Mall today for DAWN's action, which was in part a protest against U.S. militarism, in part an outreach and education opportunity, and in part a working group meeting of the Draft, Counter-Recruiting, End Stop Loss (DCRESL) group. We came equipped with flyers that John graciously supplied us with as well as signs directed against the military displays on the Mall.

    At about 1:30 PM on this very sunny day, we headed from the Smithsonian Metro to the tents on the Mall across from the Air and Space Museum. After chatting a bit with Jose, we did our best to get into the exhibits and display our messages, while talking with people.

    The exhibits themselves were fenced in, and so to enter them, we needed to pass through metal detectors. As we started to go through, some of the security began noticing the signs. At first, they let us enter. Genevieve got through, but we started having troubles once Eric and David tried to go through. Then, security let us through, but immediately after going through, another police officer stopped us and said that we would have to take the signs outside. We discussed with him a minute why he was doing this, and he claimed it was because this was a "DoD (Department of Defense) event." Unsatisfied, I asked him if he had written confirmation of the rule. The reason I asked him this was because I was sure there wasn't since the signs became a part of an informal conversation between the security people. They let people through, and then they didn't, and then they did again. I suspected it was an "on the spot" decision. Naturally, he said there wasn't a rule.

    Dave and Eric decided to abide by the rule, and they set up with their signs right at the entrance. In the meantime, I wasn't carrying a sign (apparently a shirt that said "No War" was okay...Luke was also able to get through with a Bush chickenhawk shirt was also okay). It's not clear why or why not; these things are pretty arbitrary.

    I quickly walked to try to catch up with Genevieve (who had her sign) and with Malachy. As I walked briskly, I noticed an incredible montage of military displays from all the branches of the service. There were military bands, military displays, military weapons. In some cases, young children were being encouraged to play with the guns. As I made my way through this maze of militarism, I finally found myself outside where there were all kinds of military heavy machinery, including heavy artillery and armored personnel carriers. My eyes finally caught sight of Malachy and Genevieve. I got to them, and no sooner did I tell them what had happened than a security personnel came to Genevieve and told her she needed to leave her sign with him.

    "I'm not leaving my sign with you!" She moved away from him. He said that if she didn't leave her sign, she would have to leave. She went over to an armored personnel carrier where I took a couple pictures. At that point, five troops around the carrier began to mock her and tried to get in the picture (which I was happy to oblige). The security person again approached her as Genevieve began to have a very heated exchange with the five troops. The security person came up, and Genevieve agreed to be escorted to the exit as I continued to flash photographs.

    We exited, stood there for a short time (noticing that some tourists entered through the exit, thus avoiding the metal detectors when sometimes as many as five troops weren't paying attention). We soon joined our friends and spent the next couple of hours in front of the entrance.

    There, we felt a great deal of obvious animosity, but you'd be very surprised what happened in small private moments. One man wearing a badge that said "DoD Exhibitor" came up to Genevieve and said in her ear, "Thank God you all are out here." A soldier at one point whispered quietly into Malachy's ear, "You're right, you know? I just can't say anything out loud or I will get into a lot of trouble." We had our pictures taken with high school students from Baltimore, and several passersby expressed sympathy. Nevertheless, more often than not, the scene was tense and hostile. At least one or two men threatened violence, but no one backed away.

    Most of the flyers ultimately disappeared as we handed them out to those who were interested. Some from Codepink also came and joined us.

    We only decided to meet when people decided they needed to get going, the reason being that an action seemed a lot more effective than another meeting.

    Personally, I sometimes think in heated exchanges that we don't always show much discipline, shouting down and bullying those who disagree with us, and sinking our arguments to the lowest common denominator. We shouldn't always be as quick witted as we are, practiced in talking. I think, though, on the other hand, that people need to see our passion. And, I resent the implication that we are crazy. We spend billions and billions of dollars on killing machines, glorifying it to our kids, and treating them like toys, and we're supposed to be the ones who are insane because we carry a couple signs and make a little bit of noise?! Something is hopelessly out of whack, and I'll take our craziness over the craziness of these death machines any day.

    Good actions arouse passions, whether they be anger or sympathy. I think we can do more to raise the relationship with our opponents to a higher level, but no one can deny that this action was provocative. We were able to interact with real soldiers, real supporters of militarism, and find people willing to feel and care for something, even if they found what we were doing dispicable. Others were inspired by us, like the young couple from Palestine that we met.

    Seeing the disgusting display of militarism on the Mall aroused passions in me. Seeing children playing with weapons aroused something in me. It made the cycle of destruction that we are perpetuating all the more tangible inside of me. It was empowering for me, not just because I could participate, but to witness the courage of our friends. Some expressed openly to the police that they were willing to face arrest, and as Genevieve put it, that our belief in this is that strong.

    Later at the student networking session honoring the Georgetown Living Wage activists one young woman from the Friends Committee on National Legislation said to Malachy and I that during the Nuremburg trials that there were experiments carried out which showed that people don't so much go to war and obey the law so much because they are told or because they are scared not to but because they had been habituated to carry out those kinds of actions. I quipped back to her that we suffer from a bad national habit, then. And, indeed we do. It will take a lot of resistance to change the culture of that habit. We can only hope to make a dent by being in places like we were today, challenging the military might right in its face. It won't be pretty at first, but over time, through our commitment, through our suffering, we can break this horrible national habit.

    That's all for now.

    Jim Macdonald

    PS The student networking session honoring the Georgetown Living Wage activists was a wonderful event put together by DAWN and MGJ, and I think Chris did a fantastic job. Malachy and I met so many student activists from groups I had no idea existed. They've compiled these names and groups, and we'll be staying in touch. That action was equally important to our ends even though the vibe was completely different than the vibe on the Mall.

    It was a fantastic start in movement building. Without relationships, there can be no solidarity. Without solidarity, we have no movement. While hardly as dramatic as this afternoon, I hope that we appreciate the hard work that goes into making the relationships that will make direct actions like the one reported above more effective.

    UFPJ (in DC)...That Horrible Sinking Feeling (originally published August 30, 2005)

    This piece was published in DC Indymedia on August 30, 2005. Here you see me maturing in my anarchism and deep in a fight against national organizations like UFPJ stepping on local grassroots organizing. By this point, I am fed up with the national anti-war movement. Ever since this experience, I have been an anarchist not only against the state and capital but also against the governance and hierarchies that develop to co-opt social movements. UFPJ was a prime example of a national organization that was a state within the anti-war movement, supported in part because they were better than the Stalinists down the street and certainly better than American imperial government. But it gave me a hard lesson as to why anarchists only run into trouble when they build coalitions with statists. - jsm September 19, 2023 P.S. And, you should read the internet archive of the comments - quite the freaking discussion! - DC Indymedia Archived Article

    ***

    Have you ever been in a place where everyone seemed happy and engaged, and the happier and more engaged they seemed, the more you felt like oozing into the center of the earth never to be seen from again? That's the way I felt last night at the UFPJ DC organizing meeting.

    On the face of things, it was a great meeting. Over 70 people came to organize and listen to Ray McGovern and Tia Steele. I can't say that Ray or Tia were disappointing speakers at all, and they not only meant well, they spoke well. But, you see, by that point, I was already feeling way off.

    The meeting was in the Communication Workers of America building. The room was set up in a large square with seats at a square table with another row of seats outlining three corners of the square around the perimeter. Besides being cold, the room felt something like a board room. It was pretty clear where the front of the room was and where the hotshots would be sitting.

    In my own strange characteristic defiance, I came straight from work wearing shirt and tie. Usually, I stick out like a sore thumb, which often amuses me, since in the activist setting I’m accustomed to, there’s an air of rebellion in wearing the tie. I don’t always wear the tie, and it’s not my costume of choice, but I resent the thought that I should have to change after I leave work and that I can’t feel comfortable in any skin I find myself. Well, last night, while no one else was wearing a tie, I somehow felt a lot more like my clothes fit the occasion. That’s not really so bad. And, that’s not the point. Yes, the demographic was different, a little wealthier, but so what? If people are themselves, let them be themselves. What I think it was really was the context of it all in terms of UFPJ. Over and over, those of us who have been working on opening up UFPJ’s process and making it more democratic have been criticized relentlessly for not being diverse enough as a group, lacking a significant number of people of color, especially, and the veiled suggestion that UFPJ needs its hierarchical structure in order to make sure that voices that have been traditionally silenced have a chance to step up to the plate. If you open up the process, the assumption is that you only open up the process for people who have been traditionally empowered. Yet, looking around, I didn’t see a lot of diversity except that at the front of the room, you had two people of color leading the meeting. While by some definition, that’s diversity and re-balancing the power equation, I think many would simply call that tokenism. And, looking in this room, knowing the criticisms that have been levied against efforts that I and others have been a part of, I no longer felt comfortable in my own clothes.

    If numbers are any indication, UFPJ’s organizing should be a success, but at the cost of movement empowerment. The meeting after the presentations, which I will reiterate were pretty good, consisted of a series of report backs, a call for volunteers, and a pitch for donations. At a few moments, people edged in with clarifying questions. However, there was nothing to decide, no way to plug in creatively, and no sense of ownership. The people who spoke in some ways owned the event, and even some of them were less owners than others.

    People seemed genuinely energized by this, perhaps sensing the numbers, sensing that Cindy Sheehan’s vigil had given people a sense that a turning point was near, but I continued to feel a real sense of distress. Here a local movement had been co-opted effectively by the promise of bigger numbers, by the celebrities, by the name recognition. It promised little slices of pie to people, often in the name of an endless series of tents, if only we can come together to stop the war, which now seemingly must come to an end. The big problem with this big tent was that voices were lost in the process. There is a horrible contradiction in working toward lifting up the voices who haven’t been heard when there is no process in place that guarantees that those voices will be heard. So, what you end up having are the dominant patriarchal (patriotic) sections of society wreaking a kind of unwitting havoc on anyone who dares to be different.

    What do I mean by that last sentence? Let’s look at some concrete examples. UFPJ, through a long and arduous process, had promised legal support for nonviolent direct action planned for the weekend of September 23-26, even if it wasn’t part of the action that UFPJ was organizing. That was all fiction last night. When the question of legal came up, it was clear that UFPJ was providing for legal support only for actions on September 26. Those who had rebelled had been quietly pushed aside when the sham process reached a sham decision (much like many of the decisions of UFPJ’s national assembly in St. Louis). What about a convergence center as a means of supporting and showing solidarity with those actions? UFPJ’s stock answer was that it was likely that the tents would serve as a convergence center. Under whose control? UFPJ’s. Would housing be allowed there? Absolutely not. Would UFPJ then help provide money? Probably not. Talk with Leslie Cagan. Okay, what about Operation Ceasefire, that great event that is being put together to support UFPJ and DAWN. Well, don’t look now but DAWN isn’t mentioned much anymore in Operation Ceasefire. I guess money talks. And, capitalism is alive and well in the peace movement, where return for investment must correlate to amount of investment a group can offer, and any attempt to rectify the power dynamics to something more equitable and more in line with grassroots organizing is out the door whenever it is convenient. Expect the peace groups with resources to have even more, and those who don’t to have the nothing but human volunteer power that they started with. But, damn it, after all of this, volunteer! Give money from deep inside your pockets! Stop the war (in Iraq)! Put the Palestinians off in Farragut Square…sounds like a winner! In other words, daring to stand up against the hierarchies of decision-making leads you to be pushed aside, ignored, dropped away, tokenized, or highlighted somewhere else. Who can stop this (anti-)war machine?

    I’m really glad I went last night, but I won’t be coming back. I’m angry. I’m mad. I’m mad because I find myself having to work for the movement, and right now working for that movement means supporting all the options possible, and that means helping bring people to this event. Since people coming don’t give a damn about UFPJ, ANSWER, MGJ, DAWN, or anyone else, and are (to use Ray McGovern’s talk last night “unreasonably patient” with the voices in the movement) looking for a voice, I’m going to have to work like mad to give them that opportunity. I have to help them find housing, help getting around, the best information on actions, the best anti-war and global justice literature that I can find. But, I’m mad as hell because the big lie is that all this is not even close to what it should be, and we are propping up hierarchical, disempowering processes in order to fight them. The contradiction is maddening.

    The evening finished with breakouts into working groups. Many of us harassed our friend Jose about the issue of a convergence space. It was comedy of the absurd. Jose has no power over the issue and no influence on it. But, we let our poor friend have it because there was nothing else to be done. To get stuff done you have to schmooze the right person, and I think all of us going there knew that in advance. But, we don’t have endless hours of the day to play political games. These meetings are billed as organizing meetings, and that’s when we can come. We can’t go to New York, can’t be on the phone all day, and many of us are increasingly disgusted with dealing with the feudal lords who are in power.

    This is not sustainable.

    This weekend I will go to New York, and we will be talking about the weekend and working on the alternatives, not just in terms of action, but in terms of organizing and empowerment. I hope we consider this seriously, and consider not allowing ourselves to be co-opted ever again.

    Frustrated,

    Jim

    A Call for Anti-War Actions in Washington, DC, January 20, 2005 (originally published November 30, 2004)

    This call to action I wrote for DAWN in November 2004 (published in DC Indymedia on November 30, 2004)

    It makes me cringe now, but this ended up being a significant action in a beautiful decentralized protest that brought out between 10-15,000 people. It was the model of the organizing we wanted to do that was different from what the big national organizations did (UFPJ and ANSWER), who were both Communist front organizations, one more liberal and more Stalinist, but both different than our anarchist-inspired approach. I wish the Call to Action were a bit more anarchist, but it definitely reflected the diversity of our network in DAWN. My own radicalism was still in process.

    -jsm September 19, 2023


    RISE Against Bush

    SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow

    A Call for Anti-War Actions in Washington, DC, January 20, 2005
    Every morning, the sun rises up, penetrating and overcoming the darkness of night. What once was dark becomes bright, changed by the force of the sun's rays.

    Our world is in darkness tonight, plagued with war, poverty, environmental destruction, and attacks on many of the liberties that so many of us hold dear. The darkness over our world has grown yet darker with the election of George W. Bush to another 4 years in office.
    In the dark of the night, we need only wait for the sun. However, in the dark of our world, we cannot wait. If we are to see a new dawn, we must take action now. The DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) calls on the people of the world to RISE Against Bush and SHINE For A Peaceful Tomorrow.

    We RISE

    • Against the needless slaughter in and occupation of Iraq;
    • Against the assault on civil liberties, as represented by such acts as the Patriot Act and the immoral detentions at Guantanamo Bay;
    • Against US support of the Israeli government's denial of human rights against the Palestinian people;
    • Against U.S. overthrow of Aristide in Haiti;
    • Against U.S. attempts to overthrow any other democratically elected leader, including Hugo Chavez in Venezuela;
    • Against any U.S. military action in Iran.

    We SHINE

    • For a world that embraces peaceful dialogue instead of war;
    • For a world where we respect the liberty of all beings;
    • For a world that looks out for all those who are now oppressed, including the poor, women, racial minorities, workers, the disabled, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, as well as the earth and its creatures;
    • For a world that embraces social justice;
    • For democracy and the autonomy of all people to have a full say in how they are governed;
    • For each other.

    The Call
    DAWN calls for people all over the nation and world to converge on Washington, DC, on the day of George W. Bush's Inauguration, January 20, 2005, for peaceful anti-war actions.
    While DAWN is coordinating with many groups for a day of actions, DAWN calls additionally for these specific actions:

    1. A permitted nonviolent anti-war rally followed by a march to Bush's inaugural parade route;
    2. A nonviolent civil disobedience die-in, following the rally, in memorial to the dead at the hands of Bush and his Administration.

    DAWN also calls for organizations, affinity groups, and individuals to partner with us in organizing these two actions.


    Next Steps
    If you or your group or organization wants to endorse DAWN's call to action, please send an e-mail to info@dawndc.net. Write also if you wish to collaborate in the planning or offer financial donations or other material support.

    Find out more information about DAWN's and other groups' actions at http://www.counter-inaugural.org, by participating in the DC Cluster Spokescouncil meetings (refer to website), or by participating in DAWN's weekly meetings. Check our website, http://www.dawndc.net for more details. Housing boards, events boards, working group information, and (soon) ride boards can be found at http://www.counter-inaugural.org. We will post updates of our actions, as they become available, to that website.

    The new dawn begins with our rising up. It will take a lot of light to break through such darkness, but we can do it. We have no other choice. Join us on J20!

    The Boston S--storm: Report of DC Anti-War Network’s Trip to the Democratic National Convention in Boston, July 2004 (originally published July 29, 2004)

    by Jim Macdonald

    29 Jul 2004

    Modified: 01 Aug 2004

    A detailed report with introspection and analysis of DAWN's trip to the Boston Social Forum and the Democratic National Convention 2004.

    Prelude

    One day in June, I was searching the internet seeing if anything had been written about me in connection with the anti-war movement. After searching through a fair number of articles written by me or quoting me, I came upon a site that surprised me. The site, run by a company called ICI Companies, International Consultants and Investigations, Inc., had a page on terror alerts (see http://www.icicompanies.com/ICI_terror_alerts01.htm). There, I saw a meeting announcement that I had written for the DC Conventions Coalition, a network of organizations that I and others in the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) had put together to protest the 2004 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The mundane announcement listed our next meeting, my name and email, and the groups involved. Somehow, this innocent announcement ended up on a page entitled “Terror Alerts.” The people at ICI gave a title to our announcement. It said: “Boston: ‘S—storm’ in the making.”

    I don’t know how a small group of DC activists planning public meetings for nonviolent protest in Boston became listed on a private company’s terror alert list, but I do know that they give us far too much credit. Organizing for Boston was a struggle right down to the end. Despite months of planning, only 25 DC activists made the trip with us to Boston. Buses became car pools, and I was profoundly discouraged by the fruits of our efforts. We didn’t aspire to be any kind of terror threat; all we aspired to do was to let the Democrats in Boston know that we in the anti-war movement were not happy with John Kerry’s support of the war in Iraq and with the pro-war platform written by the Democratic Party. In a year where “Anyone but Bush” is the winning argument for so many people even within our own group, many of us believed that at the very least we should express our resentment for the choices before us. “S—storm” my ass!

    Yet, in the end, those of us from DC that went to Boston had an important time and even an effective time during our trip. While we discovered that the problems organizing for Boston were nationwide and that DC actually outperformed other cities in turnout, we had some surprising success that none of us anticipated in some of our actions. When coupled with the weekend Boston Social Forum prior to the Democratic National Convention (DNC), I doubt many of us regret going at all.

    Here I will report on our trip to Boston, hoping that others still at the DNC will add their own accounts. We learned some lessons about the possibilities of action and about never selling yourself short. Even with low numbers, important actions are possible. In the face of so much injustice in our world, we must continue to remember that.


    Day 1, Friday, July 23: “A Long Day from DC to Boston”

    Lacking the numbers for a bus to Boston, we made due with Pete's hurting van, and two other cars. Others in our group planned on traveling separately, many of them coming on Sunday evening. However, numbers or no, those of us who went believed very much in our mission to let the Democratic Party know that we in the anti-war movement are not happy with a party that has called for 40,000 more recruits to the military, that has called for a modernization of the military, which refuses to speak out against the war in Iraq, and which refuses to acknowledge that peace comes through social justice and not security. Among us was Paul the Peacewalker, a man blinded 17 years ago by Ku Klux Klan members during a demonstration in Georgia, who had pleaded with people, “Please come to Boston! Please come to Boston! If I can do it, with blindness and gangrene, you can do it.”

    Few joined us on our cloudy and rainy drive to Boston whether for lack of resources, lack of time off, lack of interest in protesting the Democrats, sheer opposition to protesting the Democrats, or for myriad other reasons. Those few who joined us were a motley bunch. We had a naturalist (the politically correct way of calling someone a nudist) named Elijah (or as he also called himself, “Nature Boy”). There was Luke and his particular health needs (which included a special concoction of lemon yogurt). Of course, there was Paul. Then, there was Dave of “Bush mask” fame.

    I drove Genevieve’s car all the way to Boston, along with Dave and Quinlan. Of the four, only Quinlan was someone I didn’t know very well. Genevieve is my beloved girlfriend, my driving force, who did so much to help me out with the organizing—you have no idea how difficult it is to arrange a car pool of even just 20 people until you try dealing with all the personalities and requests that people have. And, Dave is a great friend. On so many cold winter days, he would join Genevieve and I as we protested at the White House. Quinlan, here for the summer, is a bright young college student from Oberlin. We deeply enjoyed getting to know him as we drove to and from Boston.

    The drive up was eventful in some respects. At the Joyce Kilmer Service Station in New Jersey, I called into WPFW, DC’s Pacifica Radio Station, to talk live on the air about our trip to Boston. The interview lasted a couple minutes, and I remember urging the people in the DC area to vote their conscience but regardless, to continue with social activism because no matter who wins the White House, we in the anti-war movement will have to deal with a pro-war President. Besides the interview, the first I had ever done for radio, we had heavy traffic that set us back for hours. Along the way, we looked for bumper stickers and noticed alarmingly few. However, we did see one that intrigued us. It read, “I’m hung like Einstein and smart as a horse.” These sorts of things lead to all kinds of silly conversations. We talked of how people in New Hampshire call people from Massachusetts “Massholes.” We started trying to imitate people from Maine; our car hopping with the phrase, “You can’t get there from here.” Then, we thought about the Boston Shitstorm. Genevieve dubbed us, “The Boston Shitstorm.” If the people at a private security firm were going to falsely accuse us of terrorism, then we should at least wear the name as some kind of badge of honor much like “Yankee Doodle” and “American Indian,” and things of that sort. Throughout the week, we continually joked about ourselves as being the Boston Shitstorm, and by Monday evening, the Shitstorm hit the proverbial fan, and the Democratic delegates took the brunt of it.

    Eventually, we arrived at the home many of our friends stayed at in Canton, which is southwest of Boston. Without housing, this trip would have been impossible. While Genevieve and I were staying with Dave and while Quinlan was staying with a friend, many of the others had to stay with 50 people in a house. I wondered how 50 people could stay in a house, but when I saw how big it was, my worries went away. Our friends stayed with people from the Beehive Collective in Maine, who came on a bus powered by vegetable oil. In any event, eventually we dropped Quinlan off and made our way to Marblehead, where Dave’s relatives graciously allowed us to stay.

    Little did we know that the home in Marblehead was right on the ocean on Peach’s Point and that there were multiple homes in this complex. Genevieve and I had expected to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor, but we found ourselves in a bed in a room to ourselves. I felt many pangs of guilt about how good she and I had it. Yet, in the end, one should be gracious with the gifts of friends, and I was so very thankful that Dave’s family allowed us to stay there. The shelter and sustenance were no small part in giving us the strength to protest.

    We went to sleep wondering what our days might bring.


    Day 2, Saturday, July 24: “Socializing at the Boston Social Forum”

    The day began with heavy, heavy rain. I had to run to the car, mere feet from the house to get something, and came back drenched. In the course of a couple hours, more than 2 inches had fallen. The wind from the ocean made it seem like more. I wondered if we would ever leave our luxurious confines in such a downpour. It would have been easy to stay in this home, make a vacation of it, and enjoy friendly people. However, to use Paul’s words, we had a job to do.

    That weekend, the big event in Boston was the Boston Social Forum at the University of Massachusetts. The social forum brought left-leaning activists of all types (anarchists, socialists, Communists, Greens, progressive Democrats) to a giant conference full of tables and workshops. Before the trip, I didn’t have a lot of interest in going to the social forum, if only because it seemed that they required a paid registration. Lacking funds, I tend to write such things off and prioritize. However, since most of our friends were going down to UMass, Genevieve and I thought we should do the same, as long as the rain let up enough for us to go back to the car.

    Fortunately, the weather maps made it clear that the rain, contrary to appearances, would end. So, we made our way to Boston, starting at the Wonderland station (in Boston, called the “T”). On any road in the Boston area, you go by dozens of doughnut shops. On some blocks, you will find two Dunkin Doughnuts only to find another on the next block. It’s amazing the things one notices. In any event, we would have no doughnuts today, and there would be less and less rain.

    The first thing I noticed as I approached the Boston Social Forum with a crowd of people coming from the shuttle bus was that we seemed to be moving around like a bunch of sheep. We move through halls, plod around not exactly thinking about where we are going. When you consider the irony that so many of us on the left think of ourselves as free thinkers, the thought gains more resonance. The thought of the ways we don’t think about our conformity struck me several times during the week. You’d see lots of anarchists who look pretty much the same. Perhaps, in the larger social scheme, each anarchist stuck out in her or his own world, but in a world of anarchists, the white and red t-shirts I wore made me feel just that much more like an individualist. Yet, sometimes I felt like I was going through the motions, just following the crowd in front of me.

    The second thing I noticed was that my rather negative view on the situation was not shared by those I was overhearing. Excitedly, people were telling their friends that this was the greatest thing that they had ever seen. I have caught a big whiff of Washington cynicism, and I would hardly call what I saw the greatest thing I had ever seen, but the scent I caught here at the Social Forum was one of genuinely positive enthusiasm. As the day went on, I became more and more invigorated by what I was seeing.

    The Social Forum itself was quite a hodgepodge of events on everything progressive under the sun, including the standard big names of the left. I’d peak my head in a room and see Dennis Kucinich on a panel. Then, around a corner, I’d walk by Daniel Ellsberg. Paul the Peacewalker found a workshop on peacewalking that he attended. To our amazement, some of the teachers knew who he was. Paul was our spiritual center, certainly the man who attracted the most interest (though Nature Boy came a close second), and throughout our time there people came up who knew Paul. Many had walked with him before. Paul is sick, is in fact dying, but the man still carries a heavy peace sign wherever he goes, and he continues to put every ounce of his being into peace.

    Besides events on all things progressive, there were tables about all things progressive. Here is where I thought things were the most useful. While it is interesting to learn things at a teach-in—for instance, I learned a lot about the death penalty at one teach in—I think the real value of such events are the people you get to meet. I met an Asian man from California who worked with inner city youth on environmental projects. When I told him how sour I had become about the spirit in DC activism, he told me that in his experience he was finding just the opposite. He said that the house of cards that is American society is about to fall, and that people are hungry for new leaders and a new direction. In all his years of activism, he had never been more hopeful. The man told me that a few people can do a lot. The day was never bad from that moment on. I realized that there were others to meet, and so I met them. I met a man with an anti-death penalty group who had tried to save Steven Oken in Maryland. I also met a woman named Claryce with United for Justice with Peace (not to be confused with United for Peace and Justice). They are like the Boston version of the DC Anti-War Network, beginning at about the same time for about the same reasons. We exchanged information. All of this is the sort of thing that will build the movement over the long-term.

    For our part, we helped pass out Proposition One flyers. Proposition One is the DC-based group that has worked for an end to nuclear weapons and have held vigil 24/7 outside the White House since 1981. It is because of seeing that vigil that I became an activist. I was happy that they had a chance to get the word out about their cause to some activists.

    After spending the entire day at the Social Forum and learning about the wonders of vegetable oil-powered engines, we headed off to Cambridge where we ate Middle Eastern food. We had some problems with Luke, who needed to eat lemon yogurt, and that split our group up. However, those of us who stayed to eat had a great night of good food. Suzanne, Jay, and Matt even stayed long enough to see Billy Bragg perform.

    The real reason we came to Boston would play out the next two days. The Boston Social Forum surprised me in how it energized me. In the meantime, I was enjoying our companions from DC, idiosyncrasies and all.


    Day 3, Sunday, July 25: “Lots of Marches, Interviews, Anger and even hate in the air”

    It seems like every day anymore I get woken up by my cell phone. Working on conventions planning has put me on that awful contraption so much that my bill last month puts me in some danger of not having a cell phone much longer. That’s quite okay because we need to find more solid ways of being connected. Too often we rely on technology to connect us, to move us hither and thither, to unite us in ways we have never been united before. In truth, these mediums of communication seem to have some very negative side effects. They keep us from the air, they keep us from the fields, and they keep us from direct contact with each other. So, as people interested in tickets to New York left a message on a phone call that woke me up on this morning connected to me in ways impossible for most generations of history, so many others stayed in their homes.

    Today, we went to ANSWER’s anti-war rally on Boston Common, a rally that was originally billed as the national rally for Veterans for Peace, who were having their national conference the weekend of Boston. A large ANSWER anti-war rally used to draw tens of thousands of people. The last three I have been to have drawn 500, 1,500, and 1,500 respectively. In an age when the strength of a movement is measured by the size of the mass march, those numbers point toward trouble. Yet, I suspect they actually point toward trouble for that way of looking at success in building the movement. You cannot sustain a movement simply by calling a mass march, especially when the group calling that march is a notorious front group for the Stalinist Workers’ World Party.

    Even so, we went and showed solidarity with others protesting the war and the Democratic Party that has done far too much to support it. On a sunny day in Boston Common, we rallied to angry speeches, which we and most others were not listening to, visited tables, purchased bumper stickers and t-shirts, and then marched. It’s all so formulaic, you know?

    Today, though, we went on two marches. The second march was in Jamaica Plain with the Backbone Campaign, an organization founded to give a backbone to the Democratic Party. And, while the mood had a more melodic spirit and brought in some elements of the movement you don’t often get at ANSWER’s rallies, it was a mood that could not contain the irony that I shall describe further in this day’s narrative.

    Even though the day consisted of two marches I found disappointing, the day had its highlights for me. While arriving at Boston Common from the “T”, I noticed another message on my cell phone. It was another message from DC about buses to New York. Whereas the first message was one hoping to help get the word out, this message was one a little more comical and a lot more hateful. The message said, “I am interested in your bus trip because I’d like to ride in a bus full of retards. You can call me back at 1-800-FUCK-YOU.” What a strange number. At least, the caller has a soft spot for the developmentally disabled. It was the first hate voice mail I had ever gotten, but I wasn’t all that bothered by it. Anyhow, soon after that message, a reporter from Mother Jones magazine conducted an extensive interview with me. Soon after, a story that features that interview was published on the internet.

    For us as a group, the march itself was thoroughly uneventful until we neared the Fleet Center. The street by the Fleet Center had been the source of a dispute between ANSWER and the city. ANSWER won the right to march by the Fleet Center, but I doubt most in the crowd had much knowledge of the particulars of that fight. So, as we approached, it was a little disconcerting to see MPs on a bridge near the Fleet Center looking down on the crowd, at least one with an AK-47. Soon after that, we approached the street, and instead of a clear view of the Fleet Center was a large black steel fence, much like fences that many of us in DC saw in Lafayette Park during a peace mach in April 2003. The sight was horrible. Behind the fences were signs that said “Welcome to the Democratic National Convention.” Some welcome! Oh, the cages of democracy! Later, I saw pictures from press from inside the black fences; how lucky they must be to have access to the inside while peace protesters, PEACE protesters for crying out loud can’t get near this week’s symbol of the one political party in the United States that’s supposed to be the big tent that will include people on the left. Instead, we see police officers, MPs, and black fences.

    So, on this fence, many demonstrators, including Jay and Genevieve, began banging rhythms on the fence. If they were going to put barricades in our way, barricades representing fear, then it gave me joy to witness people finding some soulful melody.

    However, generally, there was a tremendous sense of outrage that came over the crowd, more outrage than I think many of the protesters expected. Soon, down the street I could hear Genevieve and others yelling through the fence, “Shame on the Democrats!” What real conversation is there in America? We are reduced to being caged like animals and our message trivialized. “Is there going to be violence?” “How big is the march?” “How many arrests?” However, the true shame is on us for allowing parties like the Democratic Party to set themselves up as alternatives while at the same time doing everything in their power to stop free expression. They are working to keep Ralph Nader off ballots in states like Arizona and Maryland, they are supporting war right in their platform, and have even dropped any mention of DC statehood from in it as well. The only argument they give in response is, “Well, don’t you think Bush is worse?” Yes, of course Bush is worse! But, how am I in good conscience going to give my vote to a party that supports state-sponsored murder and an assault on our civil liberties like we were witnessing right in front of our faces? Shame on the Democrats indeed!

    Other highlights of that particular march included running into a die-in of anti-abortion activists. At first, I thought it was anti-war activists blocking a street. However, most people figured out what was going on quickly, and there were no incidents. Later, we ran into presidential candidate Vermin Supreme. You think I’m kidding, but the joke is on you. Truthfully, there is a man named Vermin Supreme, who was on the DC Democratic primary ballot for President of the United States. He called himself the friendly fascist and built his platform around dental hygiene. Well, there he was. In fact, the rest of our time in Boston, we ran into this comic character at least 6 times. Later that evening, waiting for the train, Vermin taunted the security through a bullhorn, saying, “If you see anyone who looks like me, please call security immediately!” Finally, a friendly fascist with a sense of humor who looks like a hippy with a plastic naked ass hanging off of him.

    Paul the Peacewalker came along with us as well, and he attracted press like a magnet. Photo after photo I saw being taken of his gigantic peace sign. The man, as Genevieve could testify, walked extremely fast. This created problems for those of us leading him through the protest. He constantly bumped into people and nearly tripped several times. Later in Jamaica Plain, he actually fell on some stairs and required delicate medical attention due to his gangrene. The press who bothered to do more than take pictures of Paul found themselves curious about this man and his story. For his part, he was having a great time. In many ways, he was our symbol, our motivation.

    While I was not witness to it, apparently Pete got into a shouting match twice with some of the ANSWER organizers, over injustices he perceived in the handling of some of their security with some people from Veterans for Peace. I do not have a good grasp of the details, but Pete says that they were on camera and that ANSWER called Pete a “provocateur.” For precise details of what happened, you will have to ask him.

    When we left for Jamaica Plain, I saw a lot of MPs in the train station. The vision was so telling of the world we now lived, I thought I would take a picture. Before I could get it off, however, several of them moved toward me and warned me not to take a picture or that I would be arrested. I didn’t take the picture. They explained that there are no pictures allowed in subways because of homeland security. I’m not exactly sure how that kind of rabid surveillance is making anyone safer, but it sure is irritating. I figured, though, that they could not stop me from writing about the experience. Well, at least they cannot stop me yet.

    The Jamaica Plain People’s Party was an attempt by progressives in the city to highlight neighborhoods and neighborhood issues. Throughout the week, the Kucinich campaign and other liberal groups held these neighborhood parties. The spirit was much more lighthearted and festive, but there were definitely problems that I noticed as well.

    Speaking at the party was Dennis Kucinich, who spoke for only about 3 minutes before running off to Chinatown where some other DC people found themselves eating in the same restaurant, Green Party candidate David Cobb, and local people from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The outdoor party in a park with a small amphitheater was catered, but to our chagrin, most of the food contained meat.

    The big highlight of the event was a non-permitted march (the liberals marched without permits while the anarchists had permits for their marches) with a 70 foot long backbone. The backbone, which made its way from Washington state, was erected by liberal Democrats who were upset by the lack of spine in the Democratic party. The organizers had been giving backbone awards to Democrats who had shown spine. For instance, DAWN helped in the planning to give Maxine Waters a backbone award for her stands on Haiti. Anyhow, some DAWN people, including Dave and Bob, helped carry this incredibly long backbone through the streets of Jamaica Plain.

    Just as we were marching, a man from the Bl(a)ck Tea Society, the anarchist coalition that were the main organizers for protesting in Boston, came up to me, took the tape we had taken so far up to Boston Indymedia. Just as he was about to leave, he said, “You’re marching with the liberals, you know?” I said, “I know” and shrugged my shoulders. Just as I’d said that the march was held up because the police ordered the march to stop until they could get a police escort. My anarchist friend said to me, “We’d never let that stop us.”

    Soon, we marched this fragile backbone along the sidewalks of Jamaica Plain. The police would not allow the marchers on the streets, and the backbone people awkwardly and comically obliged. I said aloud, “The backbone people need a backbone.” David Cobb was on the street looking puzzled at the 500 marchers. He told them to get in the streets, that they are our streets. Perhaps, and I know this will be controversial, the progressives inside the Democratic Party who think they can work from within to change the party had better take a look at themselves in the mirror. How can you tell the Democrats to stand on principle when you yourselves won’t stand on it? We had every right to take those streets; we should have done it instead of reduced to a silly puppet show inside the police state.

    Eventually, tired of how long the march was taking, the Boston police told the marchers to get on the streets so that the march could finally and mercifully end.

    Yet, despite the negative light I have given it here, there was a great energy in the crowd. The chants created a community spirit that brought strangers closer together. The cast of characters in this march as opposed to the earlier ANSWER march had a greater feel of irony and absurdity. Their heart was there, and one hopes that experiences like this will embolden them to do more over time.

    Our day ended with a trip to Marblehead. Some of our friends spent the night out at parties. Most of us wondered what the convention would bring.


    Day 4, Monday, July 26: “Finally, an Effective Action”

    We woke up the next morning as early as we could. Today we had a long day ahead of us. We planned on joining the Bl(a)ck Tea Society in whatever they were planning and hoped to protest until late into the evening before driving back all night into DC. Today, now that the convention was starting, we wondered if anything dramatic might happen.

    Before we left, I read a newspaper. The police union in Boston had settled at the last second with the city of Boston. The police union had threatened to picket the Fleet Center and other events scheduled for the delegates. Last week, things came to a head when the city and the courts forced an expedited arbitration hearing to settle the dispute. The union threatened to picket if forced into a contract, and many Democratic delegates vowed not to cross the picket lines. However, with the dispute settled, it was up to activists to make the point.

    We took the “T” down to the Bl(a)ck Tea Society’s Convergence Center. The church, which looked far more like an office building than a church, served as headquarters for the organizers. Inside was a welcome center, a medic area, and a makeshift office for Boston Indymedia, where demonstrators could use the internet. Food Not Bombs served food both inside and outside across the street in Copley Square. The lounge area stunk like a locker room, and the hallways were filled with all the “Do”s and “Don’t”s of protesting. No pictures were allowed inside. It felt like we’d left one security culture for another. The smell of paranoia was in the air. Perhaps, some of us are so used to the police that we aren’t that afraid anymore. Or, perhaps, there’s just a tactical dispute about what to do about it. I tend to be open; they tend to be secretive. I believe too much in what I’m doing to stay silent or afraid of what might happen to me. Others choose to deal with the security differently.

    From info we got at the Convergence Center, we headed to Boston Common for a rally and march. Earlier in the day, Mike McGuire of Baltimore’s Coalition Against Global Exploitation (CAGE), held a small protest at the free speech zone to draw attention to prisoner abuse. Most groups boycotted the free speech zone, but since it looked just like a prison, McGuire decided it was the best place to highlight prison abuse. The pictures I saw of it were very effective. The march we were now attending was organized by the anarchists. The rally was uneventful; the sun so harsh on Monday it was hard to pay attention.

    The march itself had only about 100 people, about 15 of whom were from DC. It was an extremely long march that wound around for at least 6 miles, perhaps more. It was somewhat low in energy. The highlights included a march through the Newbury Street shopping district that featured chants like, “While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping! Because you’re shopping, bombs are dropping!” and “Are you hungry? Eat the rich! Are you horny? Fuck the rich! (but use a condom) Are you cold? Burn the rich!” Later, the police, which outnumbered demonstrators by 3 to 1 surrounded the march, although it was permitted. Occasionally, the police would detain a marcher. When the crowd called on them to let the captured person go, the police each time obliged. Later, there was a brief sit in to demonstrate the police’s refusal to allow bikes to get closer to the Fleet Center.

    All-in-all, the march was a dull disappointment. It left many of us feeling low, not only about numbers, but also about the energy and purpose of what we were doing. It was my third march in 24 hours, and so it left me feeling tired, sore, and sunburnt. Besides, dressed in a white shirt that said, “They both suck” and featuring pictures of Kerry and Bush, I didn’t fit in with all the black and earth tone outfits. Because I looked different, though my politics was the same, I was greeted with a large amount of suspicion. This is the casualty of the world we live in.

    At that point, I was nearly ready to drive home early. Thankfully, some in our group convinced us to go to a Palestinian rights rally in the free speech zone. I wanted to avoid the free speech zone, but I thought I should visit it once out of curiosity. This choice ended up changing the entire trip.

    Before we got to the free speech zone, we rode the “T” with Paul and his giant peace sign. However, as we waited for another train, a woman started taking pictures. We noticed that because of the trouble I had had the day before taking pictures inside the subway. Then, she came out with some MPs. They told Paul that he couldn’t take his sign on the train because it’s a terrorist threat. We thought they were going to confiscate the peace sign, which he’d had for 20 years, but when they finally figured out the man was blind and sick, they became embarrassed. Finally, they showed us how we might walk to the free speech zone.

    On our way to the zone, we ran into David Cobb again out on the streets talking with people. The only sign there was one that read, “Vote for Ralph Nader,” which was ironic. But, it wasn’t Nader; it was Cobb out there without security talking with no more than 15 or 20 people. We watched him for some time inspired by his anti-war, progressive message. He was quite a sight, a Presidential candidate, unscripted on the street talking about what he believes in. He answered the charge of the safe state strategy, which he said was largely untrue. Cobb is running wherever he can get on the ballot and is urging people in swing states to vote their conscience. However, he said, as someone who speaks the truth, he will admit that Bush is worse than Kerry. I took a little bit of video later of Cobb shaking the hand of Paul. It’s too bad that Kerry, Bush, and even Nader aren’t this accessible to the people out on the streets.

    Finally, we arrived at the free speech zone, which is a monstrosity of justice. I do not exaggerate when I say the place looked like a prison. There were high black fences, above which were black netting. On top of the cage going across the top was large razor wire. The ground felt like crap. The place was small but desolate. Onstage, a couple of African Americans were doing hip hop about Palestine, and I could hear them apologize for being there, “This is ridiculous. I thought we were coming to a free speech area.” Most of the time the space was occupied by rightwing groups, like Operation Rescue. Even they must have been appalled. Behind the razor wire, fencing, and black mesh, one could read the sign on the Fleet Center, “Welcome to the Democratic National Convention.”

    This was the low point. The rally wasn’t even particularly all that much about Palestine, at least the parts we heard. It was sad and disgusting.

    Then, the high point came. We left the free speech zone to meet some of our friends who were about to leave in Pete’s van. Then, we noticed that these well-dressed people—they had to be delegates—were entering inside a black cage, which would lead them inside the Fleet Center. All day long we had seen delegates and had talked to some and subtly gave others our anti-war messages on the streets and in the trains. But, now they were entering in through security and were out in the open. Immediately, Dave and Genevieve ran to the fence and started shouting at each delegate as he or she entered.

    They yelled things like, “Kerry is a war collaborator!” “No war collaborator can win the White House!” “Shame on the Democrats!” When many would laugh, we would yell, “People dying in Iraq is not a laughing matter!” “Your man Kerry voted for this war; it’s not funny!” Near the cage it was open. You could go right in the face of a delegate waiting in line and talk with them. There, voices were calmer than near the caged fence, but most delegates ignored us. Genevieve said that she was so frustrated she exclaimed, “I will never vote Democratic again because you people won’t even talk with me!” Finally, one did. Each delegate got an earful. Each knew that we were unhappy. Soon, the DC activists were joined by others. The few Democrats in the area, after some heated arguments, left the area. So, a sea of shouts by activists reigned down pleading with delegates to not sell out the anti-war cause polls showed those delegates believed in.

    For hours, this continued. The press came for numerous interviews. Pacifica and Democracy Now interviewed Genevieve, though I don’t think they used the footage. Local news stations reported the scene. Democratic delegates had chagrined looks, angry looks, bemused looks, and very rarely sympathetic looks on their faces. They could not escape this Boston shitstorm. Thousands of delegates each heard it from people who hate Bush, who hate the Republicans, but who hate war and hypocrisy more. They heard the bitter disappointment that people had with the party. Though always a radical at heart, I used to believe in a reformist tactics, to vote and nudge change one step at a time. I even voted, I’m ashamed to admit, for Al Gore in 2000. I vow that I will not vote for John Kerry. After seeing the Democrats push through a pro war agenda, push through the Patriot Act (Gephardt himself introduced that to the House), call for greater security measures, and refuse to allow the people of this country their free speech rights in Boston, how can I in good conscience do that? They say a vote for Nader (or Cobb) is a vote for Bush, but that’s ridiculous. We have the power to change things. Not a single vote has been cast. If people voted their conscience, their power over us would be broken. A vote for Kerry is a vote for the Bush agenda; it’s a vote for free speech prisons, for greater assaults on civil liberties, and more war. Bush may push all those agendas more than Kerry, but we have candidates who stand for something better. Why won’t we come together and vote for those candidates? A vote for Kerry is a vote against breaking this cycle. Every four years, the other guy is going to be worse, but it’s this politics of fear that continues to produce the George Bush’s of this world. It has to stop. That’s what was continuing on the streets for hours. The faint voice of democracy was pleading with those who had the power to change things to stand up for something, to get a backbone and stand up for peace and justice.

    Even if you are going to vote for Kerry, I find it hard to believe you wouldn’t have been appalled at the sight in Boston, at the behavior of the Democratic Party. We met almost no one who was enthusiastic about Kerry, though we met many who planned on voting for him anyhow. When all you can say is that the man is not Bush, how enthusiastic can you be?

    One of the highlights of giving the delegates an earful was seeing DC Mayor Anthony Williams. Williams is a democrat who once hosted a fundraiser for a Republican congresswoman. Much more pernicious than that, his administration has pursued an aggressive policy of construction that has gentrified poor areas. He shut down the only public hospital in the city. Somehow, the DC delegation managed not to have enough power to keep statehood for DC on the Democratic platform, although similar language was there in support of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. I yelled out, “Mayor Williams! Mayor Williams!” Finally, we got his attention. Dave called him a traitor. Others accused him of selling DC down the river. I yelled at him about the public hospital. After he saw us, he walked smugly away. It’s the second time that day DC activists shouted him down. Activist Bork heckled him at an earlier event that day.

    Since the delegates were approachable for hours, had people wanted to take direct action and stop the delegates from entering, a very small number could have chained themselves to the fence to create a significant problem. It is unfortunate how people become so scared of the security that they don’t realize the opportunities. People assume they won’t be anywhere near the Republican Convention in New York, but they simply do not know that. Direct action was possible. We decided it was more useful to give the Democrats an earful.

    Finally, after hours, the Boston police figured out the security hole and brought pens to block off activists from delegates. By then, we were ready to go home having done the most important job I could imagine doing in Boston. I drove home all night on the adrenaline of those last hours. We departed with some doughnuts and made our way home.

    To be honest, we didn’t want to leave. It seemed like Boston needed us.

    Now, DC needs us. DC needs us to organize our anti-war movement, to mobilize this city for New York, to unite and let the Republicans know that their injustice is extremely shameful. We must get the numbers to New York, must find ways to take care of each other. We need help, though. We need your help with buying bus tickets, helping us find housing, getting the word out to all the neighborhoods in our region. This has to be huge and important, and it’s up to us.

    Genevieve and Dave took charge of an opportunity to let the delegates know how we felt; we have to keep the faith and see that those opportunities already belong to all of us right now. Organizing is hard work. You are going to have people doing things you don’t agree with, people you find yourselves uncomfortable around, but what’s the alternative? The alternative is letting these corporate and militaristic villains get away with their crimes? We have to change this dynamic now. So, let’s put our egos aside and get to work.

    So ends my report on Boston.

    P. S. I want to thank all those who came with the Friday crew. Besides those mentioned, I want to mention Ann Wilcox, of the Statehood Green Party, who was a fabulous help with Paul and a lot of fun to be around. I want to thank Pete and Suzanne for driving. Thanks to Luke Krafft in Boston for giving us housing and to Dave’s family in Marblehead for all their warm hospitality.

    Captioned pictures of the week are at http://www.yellowstone-online.com/boston/