[ANOTHER VIEW]In U.S., protesting is more like a partyThe most precious souvenir from my first trip to New York last month is not an “I-love-NY” T-shirt but a forged one-dollar banknote that says “One Deception.”
Complete with a portrait of U.S. President George W. Bush, the “deception dollar” note, slightly bigger than a regular one-dollar bill, had several statements like “totalitarian information awareness,” “new world order,” “war and globalization.”
I also have a collection of fun and witty anti-Bush posters that were everywhere on New York streets. Not that I’m all distilled with anti-Bush sentiments (although I strongly believe that we’ve seen enough of war in this world). What impressed me more was the attitude of the activist that handed me the bill in the serene Cloisters Museum, modeled after a Middle Age monastery.
On my way out of the museum, the activist, who looked to be middle-aged, casually took out a bundle of her deception dollars and distributed them to people around her as if that was the most natural thing in the world. She was smiling and so were the people. I gave in to the contagious smile, but was also lost in thought.
In a country with a history of military regimes, political activism requires a number of lives, tear gas, riot police and blood ― these are the first things that come to mind when I think of activism. Not that I was much of an activist myself. I’m too weak-kneed to change the world by attending protests. I’m better at writing about them, which is my lame excuse.
Back on busy Times Square, there awaited more surprises. The Republican convention was in full swing, and the streets were full of police officers and activists of all kinds. An eye catcher was a group of activists dancing to pop music on the street right next to a police car.
Next to them were protesters dressed as waiters, complete with bowties, encouraging passers-by to join the protest. Next to the dancers was a naked elderly citizen wearing only a barrel, with a picket sign saying, “Bush broke down Uncle Tom’s cabin.” This street demonstration was as exciting as a Broadway musical.
Once home, however, I came to realize once again my country is no Times Square. Smiles and dancing are hardly things to incorporate with activism, especially in the rally earlier this month, where senior citizens set fire to anti-North Korean figures in protesting the proposed abolition of the National Security Law. The photograph of one man my grandfather’s age, bleeding from his forehead, left an unpleasant feeling that still lingers.
My gut feeling tells me that it’s too early to expect those elderly citizens to dance around and be happy in the city hall square. And this is one of the few things about which I’m envious of the United States of America.
by Chun Su-jin