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Thursday, August 3, 2000
By Paul Ford
I'm trying to unrust my chops, so I wrote down some thoughts on the RNC. It's hard to connect ideas; I'm struggling with the words.
Bush's speech is a few hours away and will run 45 minutes, 30 minutes scheduled for his larynx, lips, and tongue, 15 minutes for applause. The arm-flesh of the women in the audience will shake as they raise their arms to cheer. Their husbands, with them among the delegations, look like Republican husbands. No artist could render that many shades of damp pinkish gray, the color of their skin and suits.
These Republican women are the ladies who hired you to shovel their driveways when you were 11 and 12, and then, after your hour of young toil, said “I think $3.50 is enough, don't you?” through pursed, pink lips.
If they brought you hot chocolate they deducted the cost, and marshmallows (the tiny ones) each cost 2 cents extra. You might end up owing money. Their husbands approved.
Enough of them. Given the choice between Republicans and violent protesters, I prefer rats, which can be legally poisoned. But we don't get a choice. One of the protesters attacked a cop by lifting up a bicycle and bringing it down on the policeman's head. Some masked youths pepper-sprayed policemen in the eyes. I feel bad for the cops. Police brutality is evil, and protester violence against police feels worse, a betrayal.
Many jailed protesters would not give their names. They went to the jailhouse as Jane Doe and John Doe. Why slow down the offending legal process by lying? Why hide your name, if you are condemning the corporate oligarchy from a position of moral authority? Why wear masks?
Martin Luther Doe. Rosa Doe. Mohandas Karamchand Doe. Susan B. Doe. Malcolm X-Doe.
Mario Savio Doe, Ralph Nader Doe, Frederick Douglass Doe, Harriet Tubman Doe.
The traffic-blockers, the shouters, the civilly disobedient, with their odd hair, big placards, and noisy T-shirts: good for them. Thank you for doing that. You did something worth doing.
Why do I feel so passive about these things? I can't get worked up over conspiracies or big government. I see the yammering maw of G.W. Bush and laugh at his packaged vapidity, the way he seems play-with-his-own-shit stupid, but others nod in stern agreement when they hear him speak.
I though of going to Philly, myself, staying at my dad's, but I don't have any cause for which to march. I don't have the fever. I write checks for things, at times, but never in large amounts.
Equal access to health care matters to me, and literacy and education. AIDS in Africa. I would donate to those causes, time, energy, money. I don't. I'm waiting for someone to ask.
Corporate power must be balanced, but I don't know how. Corporations have all the power and marketing money, and they laugh at us. The young socialists of Yale and Princeton now sit on venture capital boards. They condescend to those of us who still believe in the power of common people; they sympathize knowingly with our politics, shaking their heads at how much we don't know about the real way the world works. They have become awful, empty, hypocritical fuckers, and they think that that is what it means to be a human being. They are satiated by their self-fabricated existential dread and financial power. Their faith in rhetoric sustains them.
I want to tutor for adult literacy in Brooklyn, but I fear illiterate strangers.
In the 60's the protesters dressed respectfully, regardless of the heat. You had to heed them, all those ties. You could not laugh at them. I laugh at what I see on TV, the shirtless white boys with dreadlocks, the ironic slogans, dancing, chunky baldheaded women. They look ridiculous, and I sympathize with their politics and shake my head sadly at how much they don't know about the real way the world works.
(In the photo, I march in Washington at a gay rights rally, 6 or 7 years ago. I went because I loved a bisexual woman, and she asked me. My friend Ian drove the whole way. To me, now, I look ridiculous.)
Bayard Rustin grew up in my home town and got out as soon as he could. I met him when I was 2, my mother told me, but I don't remember. He was back to speak at the schools and she drove him around in my grandfather's station wagon.
A few years after he died, they named Walnut Street Park for him, a block-square town park close to my house. They replaced the splintered wood assembly and loose metal swings with safe, padded plastic.
He was jailed 20 times, a prisoner of conscience. In 1987, his heart gave out -- a black, gay, communist heart, the heart that organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I went to his memorial service and my mother spoke, briefly, one of the only white people at the podium. Bayard Rustin always gave his name when he was arrested.