Saturday, December 16, 2006

Also in the last month: the annual gathering to close the School of the Americas. The best political demonstration I've ever attended, every time. Three main reasons:
1) The organizers know that art is essential to activism, so there's at least as much music (and some large-scale pageantry from the Puppetistas) as there is speechifying. Pete Seeger called it "the singingest movement since the civil rights movement," and there are fine, fine, musicians there every year.
2) More than any other movement than the anti-globalization nexus, the SOA Watch gathering involves people with a staggering variety of foci in their political concerns and their lives in general.
3) Formalized ritual tends to repel me on an instinctive level (I don't always--though I used to--feel like there's an essential connection between ritual and fascism; now it's more a personal discomfort, sometimes for political reasons and sometimes for reasons of "taste"), but the central event of the gathering--the liturgical intonation, for 3 1/2 hours, of the names of victims of SOA-educated military leaders, each followed by a mass, harmonized chant of the word "presente" while people leave crosses and other objects bearing the names of the dead on the fence of the base--bowls me over. I'm on stage, singing the "presentes;" the list comes to a series of "unnamed persons;" I think of the faces of my friends, there at Ft. Benning and elsewhere, and my friends fill in the voids left by that namelessness; we could be singing about them; I choke up, and have to turn the mic over to someone else.

The bill to close the School comes regularly before congress. Last time it lost by 15 votes. 34 of those opposed were voted out in the last election.

Here you can read the lyrics to a song by the Prince Myshkins about our friend Mimi LaValley, who was one of many to spend time in prison in 2002 for crossing the line onto army property (I'm amazed that we don't have the MP3 up; I'll have to change that).

(Incidentally, the prison to which Mimi was sentenced was built for the Watergate criminals; she says that every morning and evening prerecorded announcements would blare over the PA: "the swimming pool is now open;" "the swimming pool is now closed." The swimming pool was utterly dry, and probably had always been, since Nixon's crooks never ended up there).

David Rovics and Holly Near have written more thorough reports. I'll get some photos up here, or on the Myshkins site, soon.


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