dangerous compassions

I call you / from the comet's cradle

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the dangers of demonstrating

Today at the demonstration we go to every week there was a bunch of people because of a graduation going on in the community building right there.  There were a ton of people milling around, and it made for a different energy.  Ming and I stood on our usual corner.  I held my favorite sign, "no torture, no drones" and Ming had one about closing Guantanamo Bay.

Some people commented from passing vehicles, and some people talked to us.  I want to tell you about this obnoxious yuppie-looking middle aged white guy who confronted us, wanting to talk to us about our signs, and he was a creep. 

He asked me about my sign, and I said, "I hate torture, and I hate drones."

"Have you ever experienced torture?" he asked.

"Not really," I said.  "Not the type of torture that our government does."

"And have you experienced drones?" he asked.

"I've never been subject to a drone strike," I said.  "But I've experienced drones, in Nevada, near Creech Air Force Base, where drone pilots practice take offs and landings."

"But you've never experienced a drone strike?" he asked.

"No," I said.

"So why do you believe they've taken place?" he asked.

"The news," I said.  "There are drone strikes in Pakistan," I said.

"How do you know they've taken place?" he asked.

"The news," I said.  I don't even watch the news.  I don't have a tv!

"But how do you know, without firsthand knowledge?" he asked.

"We believe plenty of things we don't have firsthand knowledge of," I said.  I have never been to England, but I believe it exists.  There are plenty of things we take on faith--strict skepticism would be pretty ugly.  If I had to doubt the existence of every country other than the United States, how fun would that be?  Or maybe I should even doubt the existence of anything outside of Sacramento? outside of my own mind?  An evil genius could have control over my brain, and nothing I experience could be real.  But what kind of life is that, to live believing in the control of evil genii?

"Be very careful," he said in a chastising way.  "Be very careful of what you protest." 

Then he turned to Ming.  The asshole agreed with Ming's sign about closing Guantanamo, but he said there was no good solution.  He presented Ming with this question: what would you think if twenty terrorists were taken from Guantanamo and dropped off in Sacramento? 

A woman was standing at a distance, looking on.  She seemed to be the asshole's partner or otherwise with him, and she seemed neutral, not agreeing with him or condemning him.

"I congratulate you," the creep said.  Then he shook Ming's hand, and I was like oh shit, he's going to shake my hand now too.  I considered refusing, but that's so hard to do.  I accepted the handshake, and it was extra gross because the creep held my hand in both of his as he condescendingly and repulsively thanked us for whatever. 

A few minutes later a cop come up to as and told us to tell one of our demonstration-mates to get out of the street--this particular demonstrator likes to stand a little bit off the sidewalk.  The cop said that if a driver clips our friend, the cop will take our friend to jail.

I don't know why the cop didn't just go tell our friend himself.  But I elected Ming to go convey the cop's message, so Ming left me alone on my corner, and someone else talked to me about my sign.

"What's it say?" another middle aged white guy asked me.

"No torture, no drones," I said.  I was kinda traumatized by the asshole and wanted Ming to come back to my street corner.

"I like the other side better," this white guy said.  "No spying on US citizens."

"Oh yeah," I said.

"NSA spies on all of us," he said.  "They have copies of everything that's digital."

Then Ming came back, and the graduates in their blue graduation gowns and blue graduation hats were leaving the community building, and I told Ming, "I think I gotta get out of here."  So we put our signs back and walked back to Bucket of Bolts and drove home, where Ming made me pretend Spaghetti-Os for dinner.  The end.


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