In 1968 I was in high school when the Democratic convention took place here in Chicago. Over the next 2 or 3 years, the anti-war movement shaped my world view, and, I think in a way, made me the person that I am today. The eloquence of the people responding to the war and many other social issues helped me become a thinking (hopefully) and caring person and to always strive to learn.
So now we move forward to 2012, and the NATO summit in Chicago last weekend. Some observations:
The chant kept on going up that “The whole world is watching” but no one said anything. Seems to me that if the whole world is, in fact, watching, people should have something to show them! Seems that for the most part, the demonstrations were just a couple of thousand people milling about pointlessly through the streets of Chicago being photographed and videotaped by another couple of thousand people. They missed a great opportunity- each demonstrator could have had their own personal photographer! The police presence was so great that there was no room for an audience. So the audience became the television cameras, and nobody had anything to say. Until a group calling themselves Black Bloc decided to attack the police, nothing really happened. Then the Black Bloc people got arrested and the rest of the crowd continued to mill around for no reason. AND… if the Black Bloc people were so radical, why were they all wearing masks? Do they not have the courage of their convictions to show their faces?
There were two great small demonstrations that proved that some people in this movement have something to say and know how to say it. In the middle of the proceedings, the demonstrators gathered around a small stage near the NATO meetings and about 40 Iraq and Afghan war veterans stepped up to the microphone one at a time, denounced the war and the branch of the military that they served in. They each then ripped the medal of valor they had received off of their uniforms and tossed them over a fence behind them. This was the perfect statement for this place and time. Around the same time, a group of doctors and nurses marched to the Mayor’s house and demonstrated against the closing of mental health facilities in the Chicago area. Although this had nothing to do with NATO, they hijacked the process and spoke out intelligently about the problems.
So there were a few moments of clarity in the jumble that was NATO.