Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An After Action Report - Protest at the White House

Having seen the report about the protest this Ash Wednesday by the left wing of the Catholic Church at the White House on The Cafeteria is Closed site, I decided to see what was going on. So here is an after action report.


Well, I arrived down there about 12:40/12:45pm and kinda hung around watching them. There were about twenty-four or twenty-five holding up signs/banners with about another 3 or 4 photographers. One banner read: "Jesus would not join the military." "US out of IRAQ" etc. Most looked like they could be found in any sort of anti-war, racism, sexism rally.
They read an excerpt from Archbishop Romero. They read from MKL. Both of course, were long dead before the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Then they began to call up various people. They called upon Gandi, Martin Luther King, a Brazilian Rainforest Activist, Dorothy Day and about another dozen or so people. (Unfortunately, I could not hear the woman too well.) With each person, the clenched fist was raised and they shouted out "PRESENTE." I guess calling it out in the a foreign language somehow makes it better, more forceful and more in line with the suppressed peoples of the world.
They called upon us to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

They asked God to forgive us of our hardheadedness, use of resources, for not spending enough on social programs, for our military, sexism, racism, empire building and all of the other typical things.
At least they all had a script from which to read from.

As I watched, a very well dressed man walked by on the cell phone and commented to the person on the other end of the phone about the protests -- that these were the good Catholics.

At the end, Fr. Nangle talked about Jonah and Nineveh and how we are a very sinful people. How he will put ashes in front of the White House and that we should be sorrowful for everything.

He then turned it over to the moderator. (Apx. 1pm.)

At that point, I could not resist.
I shouted out that if we really lived in such an evil empire why did the police not come, take you away and block you from what you were doing. If we are such a terrible place, why are you here saying what you are saying. I said continued to shout out that what they were saying was lies and that he was a liar.

One of their colleagues came and blocked me with her sign telling me that this was their protest. (I guess if I was on their side, I would have been welcome.) She and others had been arrested on many occasions for this. She was willing to discuss my issues and disagreements on the side. I continued to shout for a few seconds more but then began to walk away. I figured I had made my point.

A young woman, who was a reporter, asked me about my remarks. (I did not want to give my name, because in the past, I have received some nasty phone calls but did give her my blog info.)
As I talked to her, a guy -- in his 30's (and he looked so familiar, but I cannot place the face) -- came up to me and was very upset that I would call the priest a liar. He continued to confront me as I spoke w/ the reporter.

Once done, I then began to discuss/argue w/ him. (I will call him Larry for argument's sake.)

Larry, asked me why I called the priest. liar. I was a bit taken aback but what really got me upset was the priests comments that the US was an empire. Britain had an empire. France had an empire. The Soviets had an empire. The US does not have an empire. Empires drain as much as they can from countries -- not put back into it. My mind did not work fast enough on that -- i guess I should have taken debate more.

We argued about his being on the left but his retort was that we are "catholic" universal and therefore encompass both the right and the left. When asked about the Taliban and how they looked foward to killing us, he told me that since they had not come after him directly, they were no threat. Hearing that, I realized that I was arguing w/ a fool.

He continued by telling me he could see fear in my eyes. That I was a scared person. But I explained to him, that if I was so scared, why did I do what I did. That is not the sign of someone who is scared. He continued to tell me that I was a fearful little man -- that I am scared. I explained to him that you know nothing about me, have no idea of the things that I have seen or the places that I have been.

Another of his colleagues came up to me -- a tall man with a greying ponytail -- and congratulated me on speaking up. He told me that I was very brave and courageous to do so. It took a lot of guts he said. I thanked him, shook his hand and told him that I disagreed with you, but we live in a free country and you not only have the right, but I would defend that right. He smiled and thanked me.

But Larry really got me going when he made a comment about my weight - being a little portly. (While this was happening, the good friar came around to confront me but since I was so engaged w/ his colleague, he had to go back and put the ashes on the ground. Got to get our priorities straight you understand.) It was so charitable of him to comment about my physical appearance, so Catholic of him, that I turned the tables a bit and chastised him for commenting upon my physical appearance.

After some sparring back and forth, I decided to head back to work. Larry was determined to continue to harass me. I told him he was welcome to walk w/ me and he said he would. He walked w/ me for about 20 feet. Larry then turned and went back to the protest.

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