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ALL WE ARE SAYING . . .
I appreciate that Robert Greene’s article “Give Protests a Chance” [August 25–September 2] intimates, two years after the fact, that tens of thousands of Act Now To Stop War & End Racism volunteers and others were able to do what the Bush administration said no one could do — stymie his immediate plans to invade Iraq. Anti-war activists, both seasoned and first-timers like Mr. Greene, revealed the strength of a massive, united movement in this country and around the world, in spite of the best efforts of commercial and alternative media to deliberately demoralize and misinform the public.
Thank you, Robert Greene, for characterizing the millions of people in the international anti-war movement as “a force that politicians and policymakers [have] to reckon with.” Remember that we all remain a part of this force no matter who wins this coming election. None of us can afford to stop organizing and attending these protests, not even Greene, who honestly describes himself as someone too “mainstream” to understand the importance of including the Palestinians’ right of return and the fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom.
ANSWER and other organizations use their protests to unite struggles both local and worldwide. They believe protesting the attacks on working people and immigrants here at home is as crucial as protesting wars against Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East. It’s all one struggle that all of us in the streets must continue to fight. Robert Greene may not yet realize this, but his article reveals that enough of us understand the importance of continuing to fight side-by-side.
As a public gathering in which individuals can both express and discuss their political views and frustrations, protests have the potential of subverting the hegemonic power of mainstream political logic. It is precisely such questions as “What does Mumia have to do with the war in Iraq?” that protests allow us to pose. Robert Greene’s comical description of his effort to find a “safe” place in the October 6, 2002, anti-war march reveals the frankly religious notion of purity that imbues his article. To his horror, he was confronted with people engaged in a variety of political struggles who believed that the pre-emptive war in Iraq was intimately bound with an ideology responsible for the U.S.’s support of the occupation of Palestine, the imprisonment of Mumia and a host of other issues.
While Greene could have capitalized on this opportunity to deal with such arguments, he chose to cowardly shield himself with the familiar drivel that these anti-war marches were not the proper “time or place” for “Stone Age” leftists to make their uncomfortable interventions, as if the supposed purity of his own political stance may become tainted in the process. In a time when America needs more than anything else a debate over the essential values and logic inherent in both Democrats and Republicans’ policies, efforts like Greene’s to demarcate the boundaries of acceptable debate at spaces of collective resistance represent the real obstacles to a successful left-wing movement.
WINE AND CHEESE
A friend e-mailed me Libby Molyneaux’s review of the Patti Smith concert at the John Anson Ford Theater [Live in L.A., September 3–9]. When I saw the link I got excited, seeing the name Molyneaux, thinking it was an article on the great Parisian couturier being rediscovered by a new generation. What I found is a review that smells strongly of condescension and smugly conveys the idea that Patti Smith has — horror! — mellowed with age.
Now, I don’t know Ms. Molyneaux’s age, but I can take an educated guess: Her article has the decided slant of someone who regards Ms. Smith’s earlier, edgier work as “rock history,” yet seems to lack the personal experience that leads to understanding how ideas and concepts can remain the same while their presentation is altered by the inevitable maturing we all go through with time.
Ms. Molyneaux’s not-so-slightly-snotty remark about someone’s Evian bottle being tipped over was the highlight of the piece. She was clearly not in the audience with me at the Paradise Club in Boston a few years back, when Patti advised the crowd to eschew alcohol and drink more water!
Still, it doesn’t forgive the aging, original Patti Smith fans like me for being a wine-and-cheese audience. (I can wine-and-cheese with the best of them since “Pissing in a River” changed my life more than 25 years ago.) However, there’s a time and place for everything, and a Patti Smith concert is no place for Chardonnay and Brie — I agree with Libby there. But I’m a forgiving soul. I forgive the audience at the Ford for forgetting who they used to be. And I forgive Libby Molyneaux for not being a famous Parisian couturier. Though I forgive Patti Smith for nothing; she can do no wrong.
Editor’s note: The couturier in question is spelled “Molyneux.”
I purchased the alleged limo rental in Robert Greene’s article “Call To Order” [August 25– September 2], and I wish to clear the air on this issue.
The report Greene mentions is a summary of purchases made with city debit cards issued to each certified neighborhood council. Each purchase has only a one-line entry. The entry in question reads, “SIE Michael Limo $700.00.” The actual purchase — from Sir Michael’s Limousine and Party Rental — was for the rental of tables, chairs and linens for a children’s holiday gathering and outreach event sponsored by the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council and Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.
I agree that renting limousines at taxpayers’ expense is an improper use of public funds. But, as can be seen from Greg Nelson’s comments [Letters to the Editor, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” September 3–9], no limo was rented by us or any other neighborhood council.
Treasurer, Glassell Park Neighborhood Council
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