some kind of "Silence in the Streets", NYC, March 23, 2003
I saw this "Editorial Observer" piece by Andrew Rosenthal in yesterday's NYTimes and I could hardly believe my eyes. The writer asks, in the words of the piece's title, "There Is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?, and then goes on to complain about how indifferent to injustice, or plain soft or cowardly, today's generation is when compared to the nobility of his own:
. . . its hard to imagine anyone on todays campuses willing to face armed troops. Is there anything they care about that much?
Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson in so many ways a powerful, progressive president out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush in so many ways a weak, regressive president was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.
Yes, the lack of a military draft is an important explanation for the lack of political involvement on today's campuses, but Rosenthal is being more than a little disingenuous in not mentioning the most important element of what he portrays as, at best, the apathy of our youth.
I'm outraged that an Assistant Managing Editor of the Times can pretend to be blind to the fact that we have taken to the streets, repeatedly, in numbers of up to a million people in New York alone. We were virtually ignored by our President, our Senators and Representatives, our courts and, most importantly, our media, notably his own employer. Little has changed even today, when two thirds of the country opposes the Iraq War and just about everything else done by this administration. We've also voted, tried to nominate candidates, written letters, made phone calls, leafletted, hung posters, organized action groups, started committees and blogs, created art and eventually screamed at the top of our lungs. We've been arrested for protesting, or for looking like we were going to protest, and sometimes we've been injured or held for days without charges. We remain nevertheless virtually invisible and even less effective in impacting Washington than, say, Miami Cubans have had in influencing Havana. Now there's something worth thinking about, Mr. Rosenthal.
Fortunately some Times readers know a fool or a villain when they spot one, as I was pleased to learn in going through all five letters on the subject of his column which appeared in today's edition. Theodore S. Voelker speaks for so many of us:
Andrew Rosenthal raises a timely question. The silence in the streets is partly a sign of millions of tired or retired protesters. There is also silence because we currently have an administration that would not listen to protests if 200 million Americans marched on Washington.
And Nancy Goor is more specific:
I think one reason we have so few protests is that the news media in general did not and do not cover any protests in more than a cursory way.
From the earliest antiwar marches, protesters learned that it wasnt worth the effort because their demonstrations were not covered by the news media and thus their message was not reaching their audience.
But Leslie Kauffman gets right to the heart of the matter:
Andrew Rosenthal writes that there is silence in the streets about the Iraq war. Does he mean the streets of New York City, where a million people have marched and protested since before the war? Five major antiwar demonstrations have been held here since February 2003, most recently last April 29.
Or is Mr. Rosenthal referring to the streets of Washington, where hundreds of thousands of people have marched and protested since before the war? At least four major antiwar demonstrations have been held there since January 2003.
More than 1,000 local antiwar groups are active in at least 530 cities and towns. Every week since the war began, peace vigils have taken place in at least 90 locales.
Mr. Rosenthal says that it takes crowds to get Americas attention. Large crowds have consistently taken to the streets to call for the troops to come home. Why is the scope of todays antiwar movement, like the war itself, largely hidden from American eyes?
The idiot in Crawford would have gotten nowhere without the pass he got from the commercial media from the very beginning; the ultimate blame for our potentially fatal national agony, Mr. Rosenthal (and you should be squirming by now), lies on your own conscience and that of almost every editor and publisher in America.
In fact that failure began at least as far back as the campaign of 2000, but who's counting anymore.
[image from brama.com]