at Percival Landing was unusual in that four people
gave me the finger and two yelled, "fuck you!" Something must have been
in the air; we don't usually get much, if any hostility. The
occasional hostility is more than balanced by honks, V-signs, thumbs-up,
waves and smiles--all manner of friendly gestures. Still, I've always
wondered what generates the hostility to people advocating for peace and
nonviolence. Here's a post
I wrote while I in 2007.
To the Guy in the White Truck
You made a left turn from 16th Street on to Missouri in Phoenix
yesterday morning between 7:15 and 8:15 in your big white pickup truck.
I was standing on the southeast corner outside Senator John McCain’s
office with about 10 others in a weekly vigil to remind Phoenix that our
senator supports torture. I held the Veterans for Peace flag. A
couple others were dressed in orange jumpsuits with hoods on their
heads. The rest of our small group held signs calling for an end to
torture and war in our name.
We must have posed quite
a threat to you since you visibly and aggressively gave us the bird as
you passed by. We returned your salute with smiles and peace signs. In
the scheme of things our gestures as well as yours don’t amount to a
hill of beans. But I wonder what provoked your hostile gesture, not the
first I’ve seen in almost four years of standing on Phoenix streets as a
witness against what I consider a terribly mistaken war that has cost
this country so much.
Sure, you may disagree with me.
That’s your right. You even have the right to argue against me. And,
to a point, you can even demonstrate your opposition with words and
gestures (I think legally the limit is where those words and gestures
imply physical threat and intimidation but I’m relying on memory of a
Constitutional law class I took in the mid-60's so I’m a bit fuzzy on
the specifics). What I don’t understand is why you feel the need to
display such hostility to a group of peaceful fellow citizens exercising
their rights of free speech and petitioning a member of Congress.
you are a veteran of the Iraq war or a relative of an Iraq veteran or
service member currently at risk in Iraq and believe that our actions
denigrate that service. You may still be suffering from losing a loved
one in the war and think we dishonor that sacrifice. If so, you are
terribly wrong. Serving in Iraq is not the issue. The issue is the
order that sent you or your loved one into harm’s way. I believe that
the commander-in-chief has dishonored that service by squandering it on a
lie. And, believe me, I know what it feels like to serve in a dubious
cause. It leaves a wound that doesn’t heal. That’s why I am standing
on that corner.
Maybe you have no direct connection to
the war and those who fight it. Instead you are a patriotic American
who believes that we should all stand behind the commander-in-chief when
the nation is at war. I respectfully disagree. In fact, for me that
is exactly the time that we should ask “why” and use the critical
thinking that characterizes our species to ensure that when the nation
goes to war, that action is taken as a last resort in response to a dire
threat to our national interests. War under any other circumstances is
a profound disservice to those we send to kill in our name. I come to
that way of thinking through experience. You may think otherwise for
whatever reason. You have that right under the Constitution.
if we disagree, I am distressed that you consider me such a threat that
you must respond to my actions with such hostility. Your one finger
salute certainly displays a lack of tolerance of differing opinions.
Many others who think like you simply give me a “thumbs down” as they
pass. In doing so, they display their disagreement but don’t imply the
same threat that I see in your upraised digit. With them I see at least
a modicum of respect for a differing opinion. Not so in your case.
don’t think I’m singling you out. You certainly have company,
including the well-coifed Republican woman in the sporty yellow mustang
who flipped me off last summer as I and other protesters greeted people
entering The Biltmore to hear Dick Cheney campaign for our US senator
(not St. John McCain, the other one). I don’t think I’ve been on the
street without catching a few birds from passersby. What I don’t
understand is the hostility. I know I wouldn’t flip off Republicans or
war supporters if I saw them. I believe in treating people as I would
have them treat me so if I make any gesture I would turn my thumb down
or hold my nose. More likely, I would just drive by.
could be that I am being too intellectual about the whole thing. Maybe
you’re just an asshole. But then I’d be thinking just like you.
Labels: how it is, olympia, phoenix