Saturday, December 18, 2010

See no evil, hear nothing but NPR, say Merry Xmas!

'Tis the season of holiday parties, a chance to see people and relax a bit. Mark and I don't get invited to old friends' dinner parties much anymore; no one would ever say why, but I imagine it's because people are afraid we will talk about politics and bum them out. We did get invited to a neighborhood Christmas party last week, and went and had a good time. Tonight we will drive about an hour to attend the annual holiday gathering of a peace and justice group in the western Maine mountains. I'm sure it will be a very different crowd.

At last week's party I wore what my husband affectionately described as "your Bradley Manning schoolgirl look." I put a festive red cardigan over my Free Bradley t-shirt, and then asked myself what a high school kid would wear with such an ensemble (short skirt over leggings plus boots). I love my Bradley Manning t-shirt but don't get to wear it much. It's too cold outside, and I don't dare bring political messaging to my place of work.

Only one person remarked on my shirt, asking me about its cool graphics. When I said it was Bradley Manning he replied, "Who's that?" I said it was the person who supplied WikiLeaks with the info in the first place. Still no recognition. This person has advanced degrees and teaches at a local college. "I am sorry I asked, please stop. I have been depressed lately," he told me. Wow.

I was careful not to bring up politics because NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT! When they ask what I have been up to lately, they do not really want me to tell them. I talked about the weather, holiday plans, people's health, family news, and anything else but. Old friends we have kind of lost touch with avoid us because they are afraid we do not know how to act politely at parties anymore. I was determined to prove them wrong. But I suppose I blew it in advance by wearing my t-shirt.

Anyway, I was in a discussion about the weather for upcoming holiday travel with two people I have known for years. They were wondering if it was snowing in Washington DC that day and I said that it was because I had just seen a video of a snowy scene where "hundreds of people got arrested today for chaining themselves to the White House fence."

The two partygoers turned away from me in unison, as if we were in a dance that had been rehearsed.

Which I suppose we were.

Most of our these local friends started out standing on the bridge with us in '03, '04, maybe '05. Then a lot of people quit coming. I have never challenged anyone on this or asked them to defend their decision, but a ton of them have rushed up to me in the produce department or at the post office to apologize guiltily, mostly explaining either that they were too busy or stopped because "it didn't make any difference -- nothing changed." (The general public in the U.S. has the historical awareness and political sense of very young children.)

Over the years many, many people have thanked Mark and me for continuing to publicly vigil for peace, and to protest the wars. I think the message is: Keep it on the bridge where it belongs, but don't bring it to our parties.

Almost all of these people do charitable works, and a lot of them happen to be artists. Either they do not consider political organizing fun, inspiring, and exciting -- or it's too scary. Maybe some combination of the two.

Maybe there is a lot of guilt for continuing to live well while children in Afghanistan starve and freeze in between air strikes we are financing.

I can't be sure about any of that, but I am pretty sure about this: any literate person with Internet acces who cannot identify Bradley Manning is in a willful state of ignorance.

Bliss? I doubt it.


Owl Who Laughs said...

You're really courageous. Our ugly and obviously dysfunctional and atrocious wars ought to galvanize anyone who is worried about (a) their conscience or (b) getting into heaven.

I guess a lot of people are (a) in denial or (b) hypocrites.

If that doesn't do it, there's also the little detail that 24% of the nation's wealth is currently owned by 1% of the population. We live in one of the most corrupt and greedy times I've ever seen.

But people continue to sleepwalk through life. It's a really painful lesson in human psychology, and our tendency to act like pathetic sheep. said...

I know exactly how this feels, and I've been doing this for a blink of time compared to you and Mark. My stepbrother, a marine, is home from training in CA to work in the Augusta recruitment office for a month over Christmas.

I, meanwhile, am preparing to write my senior thesis, which explores the psychological tools used in military recruitment and training.

Needless to say, we don't talk about it much at home; it's like we've made some silent pact as a family to ignore the fact a marine and a peace activist are living under the same roof, in order to have a "pleasant" holiday.

Should be an interesting couple of weeks . . .

Peace and love,

chautauqua said...

Many of the activists I know have siblings who they cannot talk to about their activism. I am used to my friends and family carefully avoiding asking me any open question that could lead to my relating some action I took. Not all though. Some will actually ask, listen, then quickly move on to another subject. I try to include the funny or amazing parts so they won't get turned off. And of course, I ask about them. Everyone likes that.