Thursday, February 8, 2007

JP Protester - From D.C. to Boston

Jamaica Plain – As protesters from all walks of live converged by the thousands in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 27, very little was certain.

Was the conflict winnable, or is the United States policing a civil war?

And perhaps the most heated of arguments – how many people actually showed up on the streets of the nation’s capital? While crowd estimates ranged from 50,000 to 500,000 attendees at the march, one thing was definite – the Boston area was well represented. Whether traveling with unions or activist organizations, attending individually or with family and friends, Greater Boston turned out in high numbers to tell anyone who would listen that they had had it with the war in Iraq.

One such person was Jamaica Plain resident Jacob Bor.

A 23-year-old Harvard graduate and current MIT student, Bor flew down to Washington to meet with friends the night before the rally, and to stand up for his belief that the war was wrong. Athough new to protests against wars, having only been an adult in the midst of major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bor had defined his position against the war in Iraq.

“I’m something of a pacifist,” he explained over a cup of organic coffee in a locally owned Jamaica Plain pastry shop. “So, it made me pretty sick to my stomach as soon as Sept. 11 happened. I got this nauseous feeling that we were going to start World War III.” Bor saw the unilateral invasion and subsequent build-up as a bad sign. History, he reasoned, was not on the United States’ side.

“If you just look at [the United States’] record since World War II, and what we’ve been involved in – it’s not good,” Bor said. “You would like to believe that we can go into something with good intentions, but I just don’t believe that.”

Bor questioned contracts between the United States government and corporations such as Halliburton.

“Looking at companies profiteering like that,” he said, “it’s pretty hard not to be skeptical.”

Although many anti-war activists are depicted as being much like Bor – young students, and often considered detached from the mainstream, he was far from alone on Jan. 27.

Sixty-two-year-old Arlington activist and nonprofit manager Marilyn Levin echoes his skepticism.

Levin described herself as “an old radical.”

“I think the whole vote in November signified a referendum on the war,” she said.

Levin protested not only against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also against the Vietnam War. And although she sees differences in the protest movements of today versus those of the 1960s, they are predominantly technological, with the message and the movement maintaining the same type of conviction.

“Technology is different,” Levin said, “ which in a lot of ways makes organizing much easier and faster. It’s easier to get the word out.”

Bor and Levin had differing opinions of what the movement was, and where it was going, but both seemed optimistic about the future.

“I was kind of hoping they’re be more people there,” Bor said. “There were definitely not 500,000 people there. I thought there was somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people. That was my unofficial estimate, counting how many people passed by in 15 seconds, multiplying that by… something!”

“This wasn’t just a protest,” Bor continued. “Some of the organizers had this lobbying day on Monday [Jan. 29]… that kind of targeted organized lobbying – targeted advocacy – that seems to make a lot of sense to me.

This kind of protesting, where activists actually lobby Congress, made Bor wonder if “this form of protest is the way of the future in terms of anti-war organizing.”

Bor said he hopes the newly elected Democrats in Congress can be effectively targeted as a vehicle for change on war policy.

“There is a bit of a crisis going on right now about how to get leverage,” Bor said. “Bush isn’t going to change his mind on this. That’s hopeless. That’s lost.”

“I love my country,” Bor continued, “but I think we’re moving into a time where patriotism is becoming a thing of the past. But if you want to talk about what patriotism is, to me it’s what’s for the good of the country, and I would simply argue that this war does not seem to be good for the country. To say that, I think is anything but unpatriotic.”

This article was originally published in The Boston Bulletin on February 8, 2007.