Tag Archives: Civil Disobedience

Howard Zinn disses civil obedience

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders and millions have been killed because of this obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves and the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
–Howard Zinn

A look at ‘peaceful nonviolence’- Is deliberately getting yourself arrested or in other trouble with the law smart?

One of the standby tactics of the Christian liberal types is to deliberately get arrested or otherwise break the law in some form or other. The question is, is this tactic a very smart one or is it a tactic designed in a way that gets non-clergy into legal trouble that actually destroys the individual’s ability to continue being an activist for long? After all, having to fight to earn a living with a criminal record is not the easiest way to long term fund one’s own personal political activities, and many who have a spurious arrest record due to their ‘non-violent’ law breaking find it hard to make a living later on.

And then there is always the possibility that you will do jail time, too? That sweet little nun who crosses onto an air base or fort somewhere in the US a step or two will not be given the same lack of leniency that a young person not connected with the religious community will probably get. Her community service ‘sentence’ of a day or two down at the soup kitchen might be the young person’s $10,000 fine instead. A young civil disobedience advocate not connected to some religious order or other might easily end up serving half a year in jail or more instead of getting some sort of slap on the wrist probation, Like Father Padre or Pastor Quaker Oats might get.

Say you don’t pay taxes? Do you really think that Uncle ‘Pentagon’ Sam won’t come after you? You’ll pay for those not-paid taxes one way or the other make no mistake about it. ‘Peaceful nonviolence’ and deliberately getting arrested or in other trouble with the law is not particularly a smart way of fighting the government. Much better is to use some smarts about when, where, and how to go into battle against The System, rather than isolating yourself with these types of religiously motivated tactics that just get the individual victimized more than anything else. It is better to actually use tactics that lead to building and organizing a real Movement of The People, rather than use tactics that merely might make a newspaper headline or two as you go out and deliberately look to getting hit by a legal stick, or a policeman’s.

RNC set to kick off, and kick ass

It has already begun. Scores of police officers and other law enforcers raided private homes and a St. Paul building as a pre-emptive strike against a “criminal enterprise made up of 35 self-described anarchists…intent on committing criminal acts before and during the Republican National Convention.”
After what I saw during the DNC this past week, I do not believe a word of it. This is another brazen overreaching of law enforcement, under the directive of the Department of Homeland Oppression.
The police proudly announced that they’d seized a variety of items that they believed were tools of civil disobedience. Like the Constitution, perhaps?

Henry David Thoreau’s writings about the military

ThoreauMost folk only know about Walden Pond and Henry David Thoreau’s reflections about the tranquility there. They think of him only as some sort of nature writer. However Thoreau was also an American anarchist whose other writings about society are not quite as well disseminated to college students. Below Henry David Thoreau writes about the American military…

A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law
is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain,
corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching
in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars,
against their wills, ay, against their common sense
and consciences, which makes it very steep marching
indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart.
They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in
which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined.
Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and
magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?
Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an
American government can make, or such as it can make a man
with its black arts–a mere shadow and reminiscence of
humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as
one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment,
though it may be,

“Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried;
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
O’er the grave where out hero was buried.”

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men
mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the
standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse
comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise
whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they
put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones;
and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve
the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men
of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of
worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are
commonly esteemed good citizens.

from Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

Buenos Aires protest
This morning I clicked on our new upper-left graphic which imparts info about protesting the state democratic convention. What I discovered was page after page of terms to meet and rules to obey, laid out neatly by the powers-that-be, so that would-be activists can protest the most egregious war and power-hungry administration in our country’s history. Happily chirping about meetings with policemen and attorneys, the activists invite us to join them in defining the terms of their oppression.

I’m sorry, I know these people are wannabe do-gooders, but this bullshit is akin to meeting with a gang of rapists to consent to the terms of one’s degradation. Oh yes, please! Just use lubricant and let me lie in a comfortable bed!

It’s pathetic that our passionate anti-war activists have so little vision, so little faith in human history, such a lack of conviction and temerity that they can be contented to hand out fliers and maps, cower in a cage gilded especially for them, and be completely marginalized by the system they profess to oppose.

Here’s my idea. Do not legitimize the trampling of your civil liberties and the silencing of your voices by compliantly meeting with police officers and attorneys. Instead tell them that you’ll see them on Venetucci Boulevard with a thousand of your closest friends. You’ll have drums and cowbells and bullhorns and offensive banners and whatever fuck else you feel like bringing. Tell them you’ll sing and shout and march and cross every boundary they put up to keep you on the fringe. Tell them you’ll do whatever the fuck you want to in order to make your voices heard.

What the hell? The vast majority of Americans oppose this war and despise this administration. Why aren’t they out on the streets? Do you really believe they’ll join you there as soon as they are enlightened by Amy Goodman? No! They aren’t out on the streets because they are sheep waiting for a shepherd. So where are the shepherds, our visionary and inspiring leaders? Where are the men with balls, bravely putting their necks on the line in the name of peace and justice? Where are the courageous vaginas, fresh from their New Orleans beaver fest, newly empowered to fight violence against women all over the globe? The anti-war movement in Colorado Springs does not have a single leader. It has a few worker bees — banner painters and flier makers — who don’t have a clue about what it’s going to take to stop the machine.

If you are like me you are saying “Well, Marie, why aren’t you out there making a difference?” I’ll tell you why. I am the system’s bitch. I have assets that can be frozen by the IRS. I have children in the public school system. I have dough invested in Social Security. I am tied by law to an ex-husband which precludes me from moving my family to another neighborhood, let alone another country. I am a cog in the machine. And in the scheme of things, nothing more.

I am, by position and ultimately by choice, powerless. But at least I don’t pretend to be anything more.


Here are some pictures from the protest I was inadvertently caught up in in Buenos Aires. Maybe because Argentinians recently lived under a military government, one that silenced dissenters by kidnapping them and dropping them into the ocean, they appreciate their regained freedoms enough to band together and make their voices heard.

Argentina protestors
Argentina plaza protest
Blue period
After the main protest
In the street
Green peace shirt

Argentina cops behind the barrier
Argentina riot police behind the fence
Argentina protest media

The Rosa Parks Lone Rider Theory

Rosa Parks photographed after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, posed with newspaper reporter“Rosa Parks did so act on her own!” I’m faced with this repudiation yet again, as J’s high school class revisits the civil rights movement. Their reading list includes Howard Zinn, but still the lesson plan is determined to press home the Parks as lone rider theory.

It makes a heroic story, to tell of lone brave Parks (she’s even painted as elderly, are you kidding me?), riding home from a tiring day at work, so tired that she becomes tired of being told to go to the back of the bus. She stands her ground, an example to us all, and changes history.

Yes it is inspiring, yes it feels empowering. But IS it empowering? Does it empower you to stand up to injustice in the face of harsh, legal if also physical, consequence? Have you yet? You’re no Rosa Parks I could confidently guess, and it’s not your fault.

Do you doubt that there haven’t been countless upstarts, individuals railing against repressive authority, who’ve spoken their piece, made their gesture, only to be humbled by arrest, jail, judges, fines, and the ridicule of the community? It happens all the time. They are marginalized, broken, and ultimately worn down.

Let me describe another kind of heroism. Working for civil rights activists as a stenographer, being in on the discussions about who would make the strongest test case, and picking the right moment mindful of the preparations needed to mobilize colleagues to rally to your defense; thus committing your act of civil disobedience with ready support. Is that any less heroic? I’d suggest it takes more bravery because you know you are launching a political act that will have legs. And it will require more from you than just anger or being tired.

Cindy Sheehan didn’t just march down to Crawford Texas and pitch her lone tent. She consulted with an incredible network of organizers to conceive the plan, Code Pink maven Medea Benjamin among them

Rosa Parks and the bus she rode in on launched a key maneuver for the civil rights movement, and that’s certainly not a lesson the establishment wants to teach its children. Teach them that history is made by individuals, unique, gifted iconoclasts, with whom you’d have to have delusions of grandeur to identify. “You Sir, are no Kennedy,” or Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks. It’s the monarchist belief that only special people are endowed to rule. No need for commoners to concern themselves, the aptitude for nobility is hereditary.

Don’t teach children that to change anything you have to take on the establishment with its own weapons. Idealistic youth don’t want to hear that you have to fight politicians with politics.

You don’t have to become the system to defeat it, but you have to inhabit the system and understand that it operates with the mechanisms of human nature. You must play the system, and no one, absolutely no one, has ever done it alone. Not even Eve.

Was Rosa Parks an iPod-wearing  rebel-without-a-cause? Not hardly.

New Police World Order comes home

Mary Sprunger-Froese brings balloon to bear against the St Patricks Day batonsJUST IN: The Springs’ own inveterate activist Mary Sprunger-Froese was turned away at the Canadian border owing to her political criminal record. She and her husband Peter who is a Canadian citizen, were paying a visit to his family in Saskatchewan on the occasion of his brother’s wedding. They borrow a car for this semiannual trip. Peter sometimes makes the journey by bike. This time Canadian border agents made an issue of Mary’s extensive civil disobedience arrest record and wouldn’t permit her entry. The couple had to turn back and subsequently got caught in the interstate closures due to weather. More after they get home.