Thursday, September 05, 2013

If they only knew

How many times have you heard the refrain, "Well, if you knew what the people in power knew, you'd support the attack too"? I'd like to officially denounce, renounce, condemn and reject that preposterous credulous abdication of democratic responsibility. This is our democracy. We need to be informed--and so do our elected 'deciders.'

A few of us went to US Senator Jeff Merkley's Portland office yesterday to insist that he vote against attacking Syria. As good transparent nonviolent activists, we let them know ahead of time we were coming and they had guards and police stopping us and threatening arrest. That is how they act when they know our nonviolent and transparent intentions? Really?

If you are a businessman without an appointment, I would wager that you could walk into your US Senator's office to drop off a document (we had handwritten letters to drop off). But because we are nonviolent peace people, they threaten to cuff us. Everyone was courteous and likable, but still. There were only nine of us and we were physically blocked from even going into the building. Most or all of us had voted for Jeff Merkley, and at least one young person had volunteered for his campaign, though I can't imagine that pattern will continue after that treatment.

So, were we wearing masks? No. We were being sneaky? No. Were we chanting? Nope. We were parents, students, professors--just folks who wanted to tell our elected man to stop equivocating and commit to peace. We were respectful and we are so upset by the threat to jump into yet another war by our President and the Senate and House that we showed up announced, with letters to drop off. They are voting now. There is no time to make an appointment for next month.

They sent a staffer to the sidewalk, where, like any third-class citizens, we were able to meet with someone from our elected official's office. Did we yell and get angry? No. We listened and we talked. We were animated--voters will do that. But we came prepared to thank Merkley, believing he was simply being ill-advisedly coy about his voting intentions and that his staff would tell us that he would vote against any attack. Instead, we were rebuffed and treated like threats. Had we not been transparent (I left a webform message the day before that we were coming and also left another respectful voice mail message that morning that we would visit) we would have almost certainly walked right in.

If the citizenry can be punished for being transparent and sincere, for offering all relevant information, what can we expect from those who do have more information? From our experience, even our erstwhile allies in power misuse the information they have. It's tough to trust that they can handle all the information responsibly.
First do no harm. Our Senators and Representatives are the next best check on Obama's poor and harmful strategy on Syria, a strategy that has been harmful from the beginning in two major ways. One, he attacked Libya, which almost instantly jacked up the violent insurgency and the violent suppression in Syria, since it looked to observers inside and outside Syria that Assad would be the next logical target of Obama. This Libya Effect overwhelmed and sidelined the nonviolent insurgency, the Syrian Arab Spring. Two, he started funneling weaponry to the violent insurgents via Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. This emboldened the various factions, including one large non-Syrian faction who had already been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq--and killing Americans as fast as possible. Yes, al-Qa'ida is strong in Syria now, made stronger by Obama and John Kerry's brilliant military aid.

So we see what they do when they have "all the facts" and "more intelligence." They make poor choices that are opposite the interests and wishes of their constituents. Lessons learned. We will not stop being nonviolent and transparent, but we may come with our new knowledge that we are not welcome and we may need to offer nonviolent noncooperation with those who misuse both knowledge and power. Peaceful protesters across the world, and in the Middle East--including friendly nations like Jordan--are rising up with nonviolence against this new threat of new violence from the US. Obama is alienating more and more of humanity. Going on record opposing this is important. Showing up is the least we can do.

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