Thursday, June 3, 2010

See Aisle 4

I doubt there is anyone out there who thinks of supermarkets as hotbeds of political activism and fomentation. And yet, in a local King Kullen today just that type of activism was loud and present.

As I was heading towards the cleaning section I noticed a small group that seemed to be congregating at the end of an aisle further down the store. I admit, curiosity got the best of me and I steered my cart in that direction. I think I kind of figured that somebody must be giving a demonstration of some new product or giving out free samples of something. Besides, the store was blessedly cool and I wasn't all that anxious to head back out into the stifling heat and humidity.

So what was going on? Face to face back and forthing of the political kind. Apparently two people had started out talking about the horrible coverage that we get in our news media about events of importance around the world, and things escalated from there. What was really interesting to me was that things didn't digress to a Democrat versus Republican brangle: the basic gist was that both sides have a lot that is wrong with them but that shouldn't be the focus of conversation. And what was really super interesting was that the flotilla events of this week came in for a lot of discussion. And here was a real shocker: everyone involved in this conversation--and people came and went for about 1/2 hour or so-- believed that Israel was right and the rest of the world is populated by a bunch of morons. Almost everyone referenced the poor job the general media did in presenting the true facts of the events that happened. In fact, everyone mentioned that the general media had outright lied in defense of their own warped agenda.

So, was this a gathering of Jews? Not hardly. SI has a huge Catholic population and some of those in the group were obviously Catholic, evidenced by the crosses being worn openly as necklaces. A few, judging by accents and/or racial characteristics, were certainly not Jewish. In point of fact there were only two Jews in the whole bunch. But there was one interesting demographic that united us, diverse as we may have been otherwise: we were all clearly over the age of 50, and some way over the age of 50.

And yes, it was inevitable that what would come up was the lack of "physical" activism present today. We all of us had had experience of the type of activism seen in the 60s and 70s and we all agreed that the situation today was no less ripe for that activism than the situations we had experienced way back when. But no, it's not happening. But yes, we had an echo of that activism that surfaced even if for only a few of us. We began sharing what we knew and where we could go to get better/truer information that we had been getting so far. There was an exchange of Internet urls to sites that information could be gotten at, that videos could be viewed at. And there was also a determination to send mail and make phone calls to elected/government officials stating our feelings about who was right and who was wrong vis a vis the flotilla incident. And yes, someone with a blackberry kindly read out addresses and phone numbers and urls for our elected reps.

Here's what I believe is going to be the result of the King Kullen Koffee Klatch. Those people who were physically there are going to do just what they said they would do: they are going to write/call elected representatives and the White House. They are going to send letters to the various media that skewed coverage to something representing a bad science fiction story. They are even going to talk to others they know and ask them to also write and call. Maybe they'll get a whole bunch of people to do so and maybe they won't. But the key point is that they will have put out an effort, they will have tried, they will have been active rather than passive. I suggested that perhaps they might want to write to the Israeli government telling them that they support the government's actions. And yes, right away the correct names and addresses were proffered.

Will any of this make a difference? Well, a difference for whom, and what do you call a difference? Yes, if by writing and calling they can put paid to the false idea that "everyone" feels just as the media and various governments tell them to feel. Yes, if even one person responsible for disseminating partial truths and whole-cloth lies gets a bit nervous that he/she might have their manipulations outed. Yes, if others who have remained silent will finally raise their voices, even if for a moment, because they were encouraged by seeing others doing so as well. Yes, if someone sitting down to dinner tonight can justifiably say to themselves that they got the ''by the people" part right today. Yes, if apathy can be kept at bay, even for only a little bit and for a few people.

I finished my calls and wrote my letters and emails before writing this posting. I'm not a fool and never have been. I don't think that my action today will have major impact on the events transpiring even as I write. I'm not going to change the minds of millions just because I refuse to buy the garbage being peddled. But what if just one other person sees the truth? What if one other person is encouraged to put their mouth and hands where their feelings are leading them? And what if that person should have the same effect on someone else?

It was obvious from listening to those in the conversation today that some had been real rabble rousers in their younger years. And just as obvious, from the comments we were making, was that we were no longer up to spending nights camped out in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza or outside the various embassies and government buildings--ours and others'. And just as obvious was the yearning that flitted across a whole lot of our faces that we wished we were up to just that kind of activism. Yes, what I wouldn't give to at least one more time be part of a crowd of thousands, out in protest either for something or against it. What I wouldn't give for just one more night spent sitting on hard concrete, gathered together with others, with only the sky as a blanket, who know that numbers count, and visible numbers count more. Yes, what I wouldn't give to once again hear voices raised out there in a chant of "We shall overcome."

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