27 July, 2004

The Cage

I decided the dog genome could wait and took the day off to wander around Boston. Today there was the "Really, Really Democratic Bazaar" on the Common. There were about five hundred anarchist-types in attendance; the crowd was lazy, relaxed but spirited.

There was the usual assortment of booths: Indymedia, Lucy Parsons Center, people selling various T-shirts, people protesting the Israeli apartheid wall. Pat Keaney was there with a biodiesel Volkswagen rabbit he had converted himself - it was a "dual tank" system, which starts the diesel engine with biodiesel and runs mostly on pure vegetable oil. Pretty neat. I asked Pat what you can do about the smell. "Enjoy it," he said. "That's the smell of freedom! That's the smell of Iraqis not dying, Colombians not dying, Venezuelans not dying. That's the smell of no coup to oust Chavez next year."

Some other folks from Seattle had a 70-foot puppet "backbone", which they wanted to restore to the Democratic Party; it had some progressive values written on it. Amazingly enough I held on to the flier one of their helots foisted on me, so I can give you a sample: clean elections, Instant Runoff Voting (not Approval Voting, Dan), end weapons trade, support reproductive rights, fair labor practices here and abroad, reject water privitization, investigate reparations for slavery, universal health care. Et cetera. You get the general flavor; about as left as you can get without rejecting capitalism and imperialism outright.

David Rovics came on stage at around three and sang some good tunes. He made several calls for an RPG to deal with the state police helicopter circling overhead. In the end someone proposed spelling out 'FUCK YOU!' on the ground using our bodies, which of course was received with more enthusiasm by the assembled crowd than anything else that afternoon (I was in the exclamation point). The chopper obliged us by circling around and coming in for a close look (I'm sure someone up there was chuckling).

I found Terry O'Brien and went down with him to the Fleet Center to check out the scene there. Terry, of course, was armed with a sign of somewhat dubious taste. On one side it read "Bush rapes Iraq and won't pull out". On the other side it read, "Kerry will try a new position". I claimed this was over the top, but Terry insisted that people appreciated it, because they were laughing.

The surreality began as soon as the damn thing came into sight. Normally, the Fleet Center is adorned by an enormous Budweiser ad, encouraging all the drivers on 93 North to drink up. But today there was a sign saying, "Boston Welcomes Democratic National Convention 2004" - next to a giant Bud Light can. What the heck? The DNC apparatchiks were wearing shirts saying "Boston and the Gilette Company welcomes you". Let no one have illusions over whether the corporate world is deeply enmeshed in the political process: they fucking advertise it.

The security there was ridiculous, by which I mean incredibly lax. What it takes to get into the Fleet Center is a square piece of laminated cardboard. Plan for a possible terrorist incident: mug a DNC meshuggenah while s/he's wandering around the city, possibly dispose of their body. Take your pass, enter Fleet Center with whatever implement of destruction you desire. Take out political figure of choice, or maybe do worse.

The streets in the area were totally desolate. In fact, the whole city has become something of a ghost town. The traffic problems don't appear to exist in the city proper, I suspect because most people have simply taken off for the week. The only people there are protestors, convention attendees, and police.

The Cage was bigger than I was expecting, about the size of an ice-hockey rink, interrupted in the middle by the truss structure of the old flyway going overhead. It's made of some sort of black netting, and actually does have razor-wire covering it. I'm not sure what the point of the razor-wire is, since it's easy enough to walk around outside the Cage. There was a stage with a microphone near the back of the space (on the side away from where Conventioneers might wander by); the sound system for this was ingeniously placed in the rafters overhead, and succeeded in so thoroughly obscuring whatever was said that it might make a fairly good white-noise generator. Which might not have been such a crime considering who used the mike most of the time.

When I arrived it was some wingnuts from the "Democrats for Peace and Justice", railing against the Patriot Act. I think they might have been Lyndon Larouche types. In any event, they were totally batshit and rambled on without a care for who was listening, or if they were even intelligible (a sure sign of mental incompetence). Someone snuck up on stage behind them and held up a hastily-scrawled "Shut Up" sign.

I took a break and had a nice conversation with a freckled girl who described herself as a "volunteer". She expressed frustration with Kerry and the decision to remain committed in Iraq, but was adamant about the fact that she did not want four more years of Bush in office. She agreed with my rejoinder that we needed to think in the longer term, not simply getting caught up in fighting for incremental adjustments every four years and then lying complacent. But she said, "We liberals (catching me in that net) never seem to have a plan for what we want to accomplish." I can't argue with that.

Back to the Cage. This time the stage was occupied by none other than FRED FUCKING PHELPS (http://www.godhatesfags.com). The signs his contingent was carrying were incredible: "Boston = Sodom", "God Hates America", "9-11 = America's Sin", "Thank God for 9-11". That last was held by a boy of ten or eleven, who must have been seven or eight when the planes hit the towers and can't possibly believe what it said on his sign. I was somewhat horror-struck that this kid was caught up in such a mad cult, merely because of who his parents were. But then, kids have to cope with all kinds of shit because of the accident of who they were born to; this was no worse than hundreds of millions of kids go through. Life sucks and it starts that way when you're very young. I should get down on my knees and thank the Lord for my own good fortune.

In the end, though, the Cage wasn't so bad, because the cops didn't give a "flying fuck at a rolling donut" who you were or where you were standing. The conventioneers were highly accessible, and very willing to chat (at least, the ones out of suits were). I was heartened to find that many of them were well to the left of the Party (many Kucinich delegates) - although perhaps this should be even more disheartening, since all these people have been subsumed and manipulated into supporting the Evil Empire that is the Democratic Party*. They wandered freely in and out of the Cage to check out the scene, and if any worthwhile protestors had been in there, they might even have been able to engage them in substantive conversations.

* Lest you doubt the evil of the Empire, the grapevine brought me a story wherein some DNC attendees rented out a restaurant for $10K a night. The restaurant owner said $6K would be enough. "Take it," said the DNCer. "We're given $10,000 a day to spend anyway, so you might as well." Jumpin' Jehosophat. This is what's called "profligacy".

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?