Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Not One Damn Dime Day, or How to do nothing and still be protesting

I love America. I love that here we can speak our minds and act on it. Agree, or not, we are a nation of action... or, in this case, inaction:
Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending. During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter). For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200+ brave young Americans and (some estimated) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan -- a way to come home.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.
Is this really an effective way to make a point? I don't know. The folks over at Urban Legends Reference Pages say it's not.
Evaluating e-mails urging people to participate in some form of protest is always difficult, because (except in the rare cases where a hoax or a joke has been taken seriously) they can't be "true" or "false." The protests may succeed, fail, or achieve some intermediate result, but whether to participate is a matter of individual choice. We don't know what level of participation it might achieve; all we can do is offer an opinion about its likelihood of success, and in this case our opinion is that the organizers of theNot One Damn Dime! protest have taken the futile concept of slacktivism to a new extreme.

Some protests are functional; they involve people taking direct action to achieve the desired result, such as chaining oneself to a tree to prevent its being cut down. Other protests are symbolic; they seek to inform the public or call attention to an issue through activities such as holding marches or making speeches. Sometimes protests are a combination of the two: chaining oneself to a tree is a functional but necessarily short-term solution, yet such an event is usually covered by the media and thus helps to publicize the cause of conservation.

So which form of protest is this supposed to be? Its ostensible purpose is a symbolic one — to "remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal" — which leaves us wondering how this form of protest is supposed to help effect any change in circumstances The merits and conduct of the U.S. war with Iraq have been endlessly debated, in every medium, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq nearly two years ago. The war in Iraq was the primary issue in a long, contentious, headline-dominating presidential campaign that ended just a few months ago. The war is still one of the lead stories in the news nearly every day. Many different polling organizations and major news outlets regularly survey public opinion on the issue. If the result desired by those who would engage in this protest hasn't yet been achieved, it's not because the issue hasn't received enough publicity or those "in power" are insufficiently aware of it.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this pessimistic point of view. Although, some folks have decided that, while spending nothing is a good start, action, rather than inaction, is a better idea:
Turn Your Back on Bush is a new kind of event in an old tradition: direct nonviolent action. In the past four years, Bush has made it clear that dissent is unwelcome in his America, and his policies have created an atmosphere where demonstrators are corralled and their messages marginalized. Polls show that the majority of Americans disagree with Bush on numerous issues, but by refusing to talk to anyone but the most subservient press outlets and appearing only in highly staged events, he has cut himself off from all but his most ardent supporters.

We want our audience with our President.

On inauguration day, we will gather as citizens for the public events of the day and join the rest of the crowd. At a given signal, we will turn our backs. Until the moment we turn around, there will be nothing to distinguish us. By leaving our signs and buttons at home, we will avoid all of the obstacles that Bush and his supporters have used to keep anyone who disagrees with him out of sight.

One of the things that makes Turn Your Back on Bush a unique action is that we won't know who is participating until the moment it begins. This is a nonviolent, silent, and non-responsive action. We expect that our actions will cause some supporters of President Bush to confront us. In order to make this action as effective as possible, we will publish action guidelines and expect those people participating in the action to remain silent, refrain from escalating, and above all, keep this protest non-violent.

For this one moment the opposition to Bush will stand together.
The question I have is this: what about all of us who are unable to travel to Washington for the sole purpose of turning around when the President passes by? I'll be in Atlanta. Am I to find a television and every time the President appears on screen turn my back? Here a few thoughts, but they just don't have the same punch as being in Washington.

Perhaps I'll just keep my wallet in my pocket.

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