Saturday, August 25, 2012

Protesting the Party of the Past

“I Could See Myself There”

Me and my sign, taken at home.
           

        Since I subscribe to the email newsletters of my two Republican legislators—Chris Stolle in Virginia’s House of Delegates and Scott Rigell in the U.S. House of Representatives—I received timely notice that on Friday, August 24, there would be a fund-raising party for Stolle at the Ocean View Fishing Pier from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and that not only Rigell but Gov. Bob McDonnell would be there, too.
            I live in Ocean View (proud to say) and am an occasional patron of the Pier, where the food is good, the prices reasonable, and the view from the upper deck spectacular (see previous post). I feel I’m a bit of a stakeholder in what goes on there, and I am no fan of the trio of laissez-faire traditionalists who were asking up to $2,500 a person for the privilege of shaking their hands and affirming their reactionary policies, which, for example, restrict women’s reproductive choices while liberalizing gun laws.
            (In Virginia’s 2012 legislative session McDonnell supported a measure which would have required an internal vaginal ultra-sound exam for women seeking abortions. Public outrage forced him to back off. Meanwhile, the General Assembly legalized concealed weapons on state college campuses and did not touch the relaxed regulations of the state’s lucrative arms-sales industry, which, as has been reported, is a principal resource for out-of-state buyers. A disproportionately large number of guns recovered from crime scenes in New York City have been traced to points-of-sale in Virginia.)
            Stolle, Rigell, and McDonnell are also big backers of off-shore drilling for oil and gas and further development of the state’s coal and nuclear industries. But, inexplicably, they are indifferent if not adverse to investment in renewables. They are also keen on militarism, which you’d expect in Virginia, particularly in Hampton Roads. In fact, Rigell has been sending out red alerts of late on how many jobs will be lost to the area if we go over the fiscal cliff in January, forcing significant Pentagon budget cuts. His solution? Preserve the military budget and “reform” (i.e., cut) everything else.
            (He’s never answered my letters asking why he supports socialism for big oil and the military-industrial complex but favors privatization of services for ordinary citizens.)
            As if that weren’t enough to protest about, all three politicians give lip service to protecting the Earth’s environment, but not at the expense of the economy. Never mind that the economy is totally dependent on the environment—always has been, always will be.
            And don’t talk about sea-level rise caused by global warming. We don’t say those words here. We call it flood control and note that it’s too expensive to implement very effectively without raising taxes, which are fighting words and maybe why so many angry Virginians want easy access to guns.
            In short, from my perspective these politicians, whose views become laws which harm my quality of life in every way I can think of, need to know there is an opposition willing to stand out on the street at their fund-raiser and deny them support.
            However, I’m not so mobile these days—complications from a broken and subsequently partially replaced hip—but I wanted to get the word out to my activist friends in the hope that some of them would form a welcoming committee to greet Republicans at the entrance to the Fishing Pier parking lot and maybe shake up their complacency a bit.
            I alerted Joe Cook, local liaison for MoveOn.org, who was interested but would be out of town. He said he’d get a notice out before he left if I would forward him Stolle’s email announcement of the event. I did that, but for some reason he didn’t get it in time.
            Next, I posted a notice on the Occupy Norfolk Facebook page. But something misfired or else someone took it down because when I looked later it wasn’t there.
            I did successfully get a notice through to my friends on the Gaia Circle group email list. But to no avail. Not one person responded
            Fate apparently decided that, hobbled as I was, it was up to me.
            I scoped out the scene Friday afternoon. It would be difficult. The Pier is located at a busy intersection between Rt. 60, a heavily traveled, four-lane coastal road, and an access road to I-64 and points east and west. Aside from parking lots at the Pier or the Thirsty Camel tavern next to it, the nearest safe place for a potential trespasser to park is at the city’s Sarah Constant Park, about a quarter mile down the road. That’s nothing for the able-bodied, but in my current physical state walking especially is a challenge for me. I can walk free of pain only if I adopt a disciplined walking meditation, which is to say, a snail’s pace with mindful attention on each step. Under the circumstances, couldn’t I excuse myself from this bit of citizen expression? Satisfy my outrage by writing letters instead?
            Nevertheless, I went home and made a sign. I’d been thinking all week what I’d put on my sign if I did this and finally settled on “PARTY OF THE PAST.”
            That done, I set the sign by the front door, stretched out on our day bed, and sorted out my feelings in consultation with my body. At around 5:40 p.m. I decided I could do this. I could see myself there. Jala, who wished I wouldn’t go, didn’t say anything, but I saw the sigh of resignation pass through her sturdy little shoulders when I announced my decision as I put on my sandals and utility belt.
            There is very little to report about my demonstration. I made the walk from the park to the Pier without crippling pain. I placed myself on the sidewalk between two “Chris Stolle for Delegate” signs, just before the main parking lot entrance to the Pier. No one turning into the Pier or the Thirsty Camel could miss me. In fact, I had all the traffic covered coming toward the Pier, including from I-64. There were police around, but they hardly even looked at me. And I was, of course, the only demonstrator.
            I stood there for about an hour, between 6 and 7, under heavily overcast skies in a blustery wind coming off the Bay until the parking lots had filled up and the traffic thinned out. Then I made my mindful, meditative walk back to my car and went home with a smile, even as the refrain of a Rolling Stones song circled in my head with a measure of self-deprecating irony—”All my love’s in vain.”
            But I don’t care. Increasingly I’m coming to believe that politics is the domain of rogues and scoundrels driven primarily by hunger for a legacy, a place of importance in the history books. Yet I’m also increasingly coming to understand that politicians in general tell themselves they’re working for the greater good. And some of them are, if only accidentally.
            But in the Old Dominion, as in the days of English colonization, the good is all about creating personal wealth and keeping as much of it as you can for yourself. I call this an inappropriate reverence for an ideology that never did a majority of people much good at all, and I say, if only in hope, that those who uphold it like a religion, including a good number of Democrats, belong to the PARTY OF THE PAST.
            I’m convinced that we can’t move forward, can’t recover from what is clearly a national decline—economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally—so long as we blindly pursue the policies of armed-to-the-teeth, free-market capitalism while ignoring the increasingly obvious facts of the harm those policies cause across the planet, in society and in Nature.
            That’s why I felt it was my civic duty to demonstrate, even if I was the only one.

2 Comments:

At 10:03 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth said...

You are my hero. Thank you!

 
At 8:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

DD. I agree with you that sometimes we must stand alone, for what we believe. I, for one, am glad to see you exercising your political/social rights, and your bionic bod. - other dave

 

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