Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 234- An experiment

Hey Seattlites-if you want to see me on Tuesday (8/24) I'm planning on being at Westlake park from whenever I wake up until about 3pm. Come say hi. Don't be surprised if I'm sunburnt and cranky.

Dear Mr. President,

Feeling strongly about an issue or cause will often prompt me to talk or to write about it. I'll sign petitions, write letters to the editor, or (as you've probably noticed) contact elected officials. This is usually the extent of my political activism. When I worked downtown, I often noticed the park across the street from my bookstore full of protestors. They demonstrated in support of, or in opposition to health care, immigration rights, marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, War, the WTO, police brutality, and the economic practices of the federal government or the state of Washington. A few just wanted to let people know that the end times are near and that we should probably repent all of our sins. On one notable occasion, people gathered to show their support for Conan O'Brien. Anyway, I almost always ignored or rolled my eyes at these groups, even the ones I agree with. It just seemed so silly to stand outside all day with little hope of accomplishing anything tangible.

Lately I've been questioning my own lack of tangible accomplishments, feeling like maybe I hide behind my computer screen too much. Sure, I'm brave when it comes to typing really, really angrily, but am I willing to stand up, to show my face, and to physically demonstrate my support for an issue? I honestly don't know. To that end, I'm going to attempt an experiment. In two days, the demonstrators downtown will be getting some company. Tomorrow I'll be making a sign, and maybe some fliers to hand out in explanation of what I'm doing, and Tuesday I'll be out on the street to show my support for Park 51. I've picked this issue in response to the widespread demonstrations against Park 51 and mosques across the country, and because of the disturbing opinion polls that indicate many Americans are actually being persuaded by the right's manipulative rhetoric against Park 51 and its supporters. Religious freedom is an essential American value and I think that even non-New Yorkers need to demonstrate our support for the rights of this organization, if only to counteract the shrill and hateful words of the other side. People in this country and around the world need to know that Americans stand for religious freedom for every one.

Maybe I won't change any minds. Maybe I'll leave Tuesday feeling like I was right about all those other protestors and the futility of their methods. I think I at least need to experience it for myself before I judge others, before I feel confident claiming that my own relatively anonymous attempts at contributing to the political discourse are good enough. If I can't stand up and look people in the eye while I express my beliefs, I probably need to consider how courageous my convictions really are. I know I'm constantly harping on you to have more political courage, to be honest and say things that people don't want to hear; consider this my attempt to practice just a little of what I've been preaching.

Respectfully yours,


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