Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Just for the record, so I can feel I've come clean about this and am not deceiving anyone into thinking me less cowardly than I am:

I agree with the goals of the Genoa demonstrators. However, even if there were a similar demonstration in my own city I don't think I'd attend. I'm not willing to personally participate in any political demonstration where I foresee any significant likelihood of being physically attacked. I persist in arrogantly believing that I can better promote my political ideals through using my mind than through offering my body up for abuse.

I'm glad that Hitler is no longer sending Jews to their deaths, yet if I had lived during World War II, I would not have volunteered to stand in front of gunfire and shoot down the Nazis for their sakes. I'm both too much of a pacifist for that, and also too much of a coward.

Please note that I do not normally think of myself as a coward. I can be very courageous in certain ways - just not when it comes to situations like the pictures from Genoa, with globs of blood the size of whole human bodies smeared on walls and benches and floors. I can be very courageous in the face of certain kinds of emotional pain and terror, but not in the face of any threat of death.

The biggest problem with martyrdom is that you can only die for one cause. Most of us with any considerable interest in political activism care about more than one cause. Certainly in my case, neither the goals of the Genoa demonstrators nor those of the World War II Allied soldiers can at all represent the complete sum totality of all the political ideals I'd like to promote during my lifetime. Nor are they even the highest on my individual priority list. Though not so many people have volunteered to put their bodies at risk in protests against corporate globalization in the past few years as the number who volunteered to fight the Nazis in World War II, still over a million people have attended these protests, and the individual usefulness of each of them has been reduced largely to just providing physical bulk to the crowd for visual impact. The fact that each of them comes to the demonstrations as an individual person with an individual personality and life history gets lost in the crowd, and when their bodies are attacked and murdered, they die without us ever having heard their individual voices.

Of course, I grant that the risk of death from attending these protests is far smaller than the risk of death from volunteering to serve in World War II. But when my only usefulness to a movement is as a body to be counted and not a prominent voice at the microphones, I'm not willing to take any risk of death for that movement. My loyalties are with the movements that need my individual voice at the microphones. For example, it can reasonably be argued that my individual voice is the most audible individual voice involved in promoting and popularizing the queer by choice movement - and although my Queerchoice Mailing List would probably not die tomorrow if I died, many things that I have not yet said or done about queer choice might take many years longer to get said or done if I were not there to say or do them myself. If I fail to attend a protest against corporate globalization, I won't be missed - but if I do attend and get killed there, the queer by choice movement would miss me for years to come. So I think we all feel our deepest loyalties to the tiniest movements (political, artistic or otherwise) of which we are a part - the movements in which our individual voices are most audible and most indispensable. It's not that promoting queer by choice ideas is the most important issue in the whole world for anyone to focus on - because it isn't. But it's the place where I, as an individual, am most irreplaceable. It's the place where I belong.

What I hate is the fact that the protests against corporate globalization have been so centered upon the kind of physical gatherings of bodies that would require me to put my body at risk. This is an age of Internet activism, and with most issues that I care about, it's quite easy to speak my mind on the Internet. Yet on the corporate globalization issue, everyone seems to be stuck on the old-fashioned methods of activism. Where are the email addresses I can write to and protest? There certainly must be some - the addresses not only of politicians but of the media corporations who've failed to cover the Genoa police violence accurately or in depth or at all. But we should be organizing mass letter-writing campaigns and widely disseminating these addresses to the public so that our voices could all have more impact. Not everyone lives within economically reasonable traveling distance of Genoa, and not all of those that do are willing to risk being tear gassed, beaten up, and quite possibly murdered. We need to publicize more options for those of us not willing or able to physically attend the demonstrations to make our voices heard long-distance.
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