On Thursday night I decided to do a teensy bit of activism, and go and listen to the final speech on George Galloway’s USA tour. It was after a long day, and so it was a pleasure to sit on the bus and let it trundle from USC to Vermont and Wilshire, from where I walked the block and a half to the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, where it was held. Here is the teaser for the event from the website:
George Galloway is Respect party MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in East London. He recently electrified the United States with his appearance at a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on May 17, when he turned the proceedings into a condemnation of the war in Iraq. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer described Galloway’s speech in the Senate as “a blistering attack on US senators rarely heard” in Washington.
Anti-war activists and members of the Arab community will join British MP George Galloway at Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 7pm on Thursday, September 22 to demand money and resources for hurricane relief, not war. This event will accept donations to be sent to New Orleans with a delegation from the Campus Anti-War Network.
It was a huge turnout and I was happy to pay my $12 for a ticket. Looking at the website now, I note (after the fact!) that the media sponsor of the event was KPFK. That makes so much sense now, in retrospect: The most peculiar (and refreshing) thing about the event was the fact that this was a slice of Los Angeles which is not a snapshot of “the beautiful people”, but instead a mix of various sorts of people of several ethnic and economic persuasions – all deadly earnest about their leftwingness, and were notably a lumpy and imperfect bunch to look at (thank goodness). In fact, politically, I felt a bit of a fraud compared to most of those people – positively middle-ground in my politics and convictions in comparison! The fact that they might have been all KPFK listeners might explain it. If you don’t know, KPFK is a station which has a very very strong social conscience, so strong that sometimes I can only listen to them for about ten minutes before I get thoroughly depressed about the current political atmosphere, and to some extent the current state of the world. I switch off not because I don’t agree with them but because I do agree, but it is just sometimes too much to continue listening….
So if those guys were real KPFK listeners, it would make sense, given their apparent dedication. They gave all the speakers (there were several “support acts” which were very good – representatives of various anti-war groups, Arab-American groups, etc) very enthusiastic support, and cheered and waved fists a lot to punctuate anything that was remotely like a political rallying cry. A lot of them also looked like public radio people…the same sort of people I saw when I went to a recording of This American Life a long time ago in New York. I have to say that my feeling is that these were not just all diehard liberals, but there were also genuinely pissed-off “ordinary” people who normally would not consider themselves as “political”. This is encouraging.
Anyway, how was Mr Galloway? I won’t trouble you with any details, as you’ve either heard them or can look them up for yourself. His main theme was anti-war, and anti-iraq-war in particular. What struck me (having only listened to snippets of the guy in interviews, bookended by opinion and commentary about what he said) was that he’s very intelligent, and that he makes a lot of common sense (at least on this issue). He’s not the far-left nut that he is often portrayed as. I would go as far as to say that he is rather like a sort of Al Sharpton for the UK. During the Presidential elections last year, there was this bizarre situation where Sharpton – as a participant – would express a lot of sensible, common sense thoughts on a range of issues, domestic and international. However, on the news about the debate immediately after, this was never mentioned and all you’d get is the standard clips showing him to be a far-left reactionary nutcase. Most of the country therefore has this view of Sharpton that means that he’ll never be taken seriously as speaking any words of wisdom. Galloway is treated in much the same way in the UK press. Like Sharpton, his remarks -heavily edited- are prefaced by words and phrases (and reminders of examples of political misjudgements or mistakes made by the speaker arbitrarily far in the past) which undermine the remarks and sap them of their power…But if you listen to his whole speech, it actually makes a lot of sense, overall. I’m not saying I agree with every last thing he says, just that overall he has a lot of really sensible things to say, and I wish that more could hear him unedited.
On an irrelevant note, on the subway ride home, the woman sitting next to me saw me scribbling equations and decided (after clearly thinking about it for some time) to talk to me on the basis of this (she said), since she wanted to know what I thought of the film “What the Bleep…”, as she called it, which she saw just recently. Unfortunately, I only got to mumble a few words about the issues for about half a minute before my stop came up, so I scribbled cosmicvariance.com on a bit of paper, urged her to check out our discussions of science here, and frantically ran off the train. I’ve no idea if on the strength of this behaviour she did not just think I was a nut, and won’t ever talk to a scientist again, having thrown away the scrap of paper I pushed her way. Oh well….