US Marines invade and occupy Berkeley, no one notices for nine months, now it’s a big deal?
(4 Feb 08: This post is about events of some months back. I just posted about recent even more disturbing developments here.)
I was walking to work the other day and what do I see. Protesters! How cool is that? Granted, there’s often a protest going on quietly in Berkeley somewhere, there’s some tree sitters on campus now for example. (Don’t ask.) Aside from that Berkeley is a pretty normal town, and one can go years without seeing a protester. So it was kind of cool to see, especially since they were protesting a Marine Corps recruiting station. Being an ex-Marine and all, here in one little microcosm were so many things central to my world: Berkeley, the war, the Marines, free speech, protest….
My first impulse was to go over to the protest and ask if any of the protesters had actually served in the Marine Corps. I didn’t though, activists can be a pretty humourless bunch when contradicted, and I’m pretty sure I know what the answer would be anyhow. And being confrontational isn’t really my style, so I walked on by. And now I read in the morning news that this is going to be an ongoing thing! Code-Pink is going to picket the recruiting station until the Marines leave town. I dunno…the Marines have held on to some pieces of real estate with great vigour, if foreign armies couldn’t dislodge them, I doubt a handful of liberals from Berkeley is going to do the trick. Heck, this just makes it easier for prospective Marines to find the office, just get off at the Berkeley BART and look for the crowd waving pink signs!
I think it’s kind of funny that it took Code Pink nearly a year to even notice the Marine recruiting centre was there. I saw it months ago and idly thought Berkeley was an interesting choice for the location of such a venue, but didn’t give it much more thought than that. Now of course that it is being picketed, lots of thoughts come to mind. Thank you God for landing such a delicious blogging topic right in my doorstep for one, I could even go down and protest the protest and get in the news and blog about that. Art meets life!
Joking aside, I actually think this protest is cool, though not because I’m anti-Marine or anything. The main reason being, here is graphic visible proof that we are still indeed living in a free country. If people can peacefully gather in the streets and blockade a military recruitment centre, weren’t not a police state. Yet. Granted there’s some disturbing signs, and I will blog on that further, but for now I’m sleeping easy on the subject.
I also wonder at the wisdom of protesting the military. The military doesn’t make policy (Well, it’s not supposed to, another future post.) so it seem kind of pointless. It’s not the greatest analogy, but blaming the military for war is like blaming firemen for the fire. More importantly, this gives extreme conservatives infinite amount of ammunition to bash liberals and leftists with. I’m sure Rush Limbaugh and the like are making mountains out of this molehill, even the fact that there was a snafu in the Oakland airport the other day was touted as proof of how unpatriotic the “Left Coast” was. Give me a goddamn break.
Even the old canard about protesters spitting on returning Vietnam War veterans was raised, sigh. This story is a lie, yet it has been repeated so many times through so many media that tens of millions of Americans think that protesters in the sixties spat on veterans. While there may have been an isolated incident or two, there have always been a few jerks in the crowd. (I knew a guy whose high school football coach made the team spit out the bus window at guys with long hair for God’s sake.) For the most part protesters in the sixties welcomed veterans, because they were often very disillusioned with the war and were happy to join the protests. It’s easy to find pictures of veterans joining protests and even throwing their medals at the White House and such. I couldn’t find a single image of a protester spitting on a veteran. And so a narrative replaces history, welcome to the wonderful world of propaganda.
Maybe I’ll wander by and talk to some of these folks, protesters and Marines both. The military did make one lasting impression on me that I ponder to this day. I met a number of career military people in the service, and I can say without qualification that some of them were among the finest human beings I ever met. I can also say without qualification, that some of them were among the most messed up human beings I ever had the pleasure of working under. I suspect that this is more or less the same in all armies throughout history. And finally I kind of suspect this is why small groups of soldiers are capable of incredible heroism or incredible depravity, is their sergeant a hero or an asshat?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, it is a low resolution grey scale version of the original, and its publication here does not in any way infringe on or hinder the copyright owner’s use of the image. Credit: Chronicle/Paul Chinn)