“I hope I’m changing my country”

My newspaper today features the arrest and imprisonment of Rich Ring, a local guy who was one of 43 protesters arrested for trespassing at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., last November. They and 10,000 others demonstrated against the school’s links to civilian massacres in Latin America.
When Rich entered the U.S. prison in Lewisburg, Pa., on Sept. 10 to serve three months, he was joined, nationwide, by 27 others, from a doctoral student in aviation conservation and two Colorado college kids to a pair of Franciscan friars, some teachers and a laborer from New Jersey. All told, protesters have served 40-plus prison years over the past decade seeking to close the school, which is now called The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
“I don’t see this as a liberal issue by a long shot,” Rich said. “If the average American on the street knew what this school was doing, it would be shut down in an instant. It’s completely against American values.”
In the same newspaper today, a column by a guy with whom I went to college who echoes what I’ve said before here. In the middle of his column about Bush and Iraq, Fred LeBrun says:
Where are the marchers, bug-eyed and shouting slogans, getting us all worked up on one side or the other?
Say what you want about the debacle of Vietnam and the sad era named for it, but public opinion was active in every shade, from beginning to end. Americans were dragged through that conflict screaming at each other, pulling hair in every direction, like one big, barroom brawl that just went on and on.
That was a painful process, but still time has shown an essential purpose was served. In the beginning, public policy was shaped by the same paranoid right-wing thinking that seems to be inspiring our current President, but by the end, it was the views of those reviled protesters in the streets beaten silly early on by the cops and construction workers that took hold and prevailed with the American people, and we got the hell out.

There’s not enough of us risking our comforts to try to change our country. And that includes me.

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