In the wake of the Tucson shootings, we're deluged in calls for "civility." I suppose we'd be a more tranquil country if the temperature of our political interactions could be lowered a little, but I'm suspicious. When I was a student at Berkeley in the 1960s, the administration responded to student activism by calling for "civility" as embodied in compliance with "time, place and manner" rules that essentially meant you could speak out as long as no one had to hear you or be disturbed by you. Naturally we broke the rules. While I am sure there are still people who think we did a terrible wrong thereby, I still think racial justice and struggling to end a wrongful war were worth a little incivility.
So I'm underwhelmed when James Fallows of the Atlantic passes on this from a reader:
I refuse to assume, for example, the "decency" of hate mongers who stir up fear of Muslims building a mosque, or the "honesty" of professional right wing celebrities who made a living posturing on Fox, or that a former vice-president who enthuses over torturing prisoners "may be right." Nor do I much respect those who ask me to do so.
Recently, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman described succinctly the conflicting moral beliefs that dominate our current political landscape.
That rings true to me. And, as a convinced member of the first camp, I feel no compunction about calling the members of the other camp "ignorant," "heartless" and "selfish," civility be damned. That doesn't mean I think the other side should be lined up and shot -- but I do think they belong back in kindergarten, learning that civilization requires us to play well with others. And don't tell me to be more civil.
It was in this slightly cranky frame of mind yesterday that I went to see Budrus. The project website describes it like this:
I was skeptical. I was very aware that just a couple of weeks ago, a Palestinian woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, had been killed during an Israeli tear gassing of protesters at Bilin. I've lived with awareness of the violence that the Wall is doing to Palestinians longer than most, since the antiwar project I work with, WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras, reported on it in April 2003 and that piece was named one of the most under-reported stories of the year by Project Censored.The injustices of the Israeli occupation of Palestine are so clear and cruel, that I leap quickly into red hot anger when I stare at them.
I'm not going to say that Budrus left me with warm fuzzy feelings. But I had to be impressed and thrilled to see a case study of an episode of Palestinian resistance that involved more peace-making than posturing between often acrimonious Palestinian factions, brought women centrally into the struggle along with men, and enlisted a few of the best Israeli activists in action for justice. There was (and is) nothing easy about any of that. Here's the trailer; it's a deeper film than this might suggest.
Budrus reminded me that nonviolent struggle doesn't mean no one will get hurt -- as the method's U.S. theorist and activist Barbara Deming explained:
This is what we see in this film. Watching nonviolent struggle in action is a privilege -- and a good antidote to shallow calls for "civility." If the film is anywhere in your orbit (check the website) it's well worth it.
Cross posted at Can It Happen Here?
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project
Jan Adams has worked with WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras since its beginning, coordinating distribution during the three years when the organization published an antiwar tabloid newspaper. She is a lifelong political activist who has worked for justice in Central America (Nicaragua and El Salvador), in South Africa, in the fields of California with the United Farmworkers Union, and for racial and economic equality with electoral and advocacy campaigns in many areas of the United States.
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