The Portland chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a demonstration in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Wenesday to oppose U.S. military action against Iraq. Though U.S. aggression against Iraq did not end after the so-called 'Gulf War' in 1991 -- the time since has been marked by harsh sanctions and regular bombings -- the Bush administration has lately been threatening an invasion of the country, ostensibly to oust its leader, Saddam Hussein. WILPF members stand in opposition to such escalation, and to the current policies of oppression. They were on the street on Wednesday to express that opposition and to educate members of the public about why they too should dissent.
Barbara Drageaux, chair of the Portland chapter, said that WILPF is "concerned with the aggression our country is generating toward Iraq and other coutries. It precludes any possibility of carryoing out a reasonable discussion." What WILPF members want is to "live in a world where people resolve differences by talking to each other, not fightin each other... There needs to be alternatives to violence." She described WILPF's reception from the public as improving gradually since September 11. "A few more people are more accepting," she said.
WILPF holds demonstrations in Pioneer Courthouse Square every Wednesday during the lunch rush, "come rain or shine, snow or sleet", according to Betty June Marsh, a WILPF member. I spoke with Betty June about WILPF, the situation in Iraq, and her activism. "People are very worried [about Iraq]," she told me. "There are protests going on across the country, and in other countries. You just don't hear about them."
Betty June has been an activist since 1962. "Most of us have files," she said. She has requested hers before and was "shocked" at how much the government had collected on her. "Copies of every letter I wrote, postcards I sent, photos of me marching around with signs." I asked her if people take pictures of them here. She said they did and that the photographers were not in uniforms. They are "people in ordinary citizen clothes." Creepy.
I noticed that only a few people accepted the flyers WILPF was handing out, which is typical.
I asked Betty June what kind of reception they get in the Square with the people who do interact. "It's mixed," she said. "Some people say, 'Thank you for doing this.' Others say things like, 'How would you like Saddam for your president.' One woman said, 'I'd rather live next door to a pedophile priest than George Bush.'" We laughed.
This man didn't care for WILPF's message. He kept saying, "Saddam is evil" and not much else.
Those of us who dissent, even if it is merely in thought, sometimes feel alone. The fact that corporate media assiduously ignores public sentiment against the war is a major factor. The pretension of "balance" claimed by professional journalists is a hollow lie. If local media outlets wanted to "show both sides of the story" then why don't they contact WILPF, Women in Black, PPRC, or any other number of organizations when they pass along the latest "leak" about the upcoming war in Iraq? Simple. Because corporate media institutions do not exist to be "objective"; their mission is to uphold the status quo. Journalists who want to keep their jobs toe the line. Smaller outlets in a market will follow suit in their quest to gain "credibility". The result is a pyramid of deceivers scrambling over each other in the quest for profit. The loser in this pile of pigs is the public, which is left with the impression that war is safe, oppression is distant, and dissent is non-existant. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fortunately, WILPF is taking the truth directly to the people and organizing those who cherish the values of peace and justice. Besides participating in public demonstrations, WILPF members lobby elected officials, testify at public hearings, and support the work of other groups. On Tuesday, WILPF and Physicians for Social Responsibility co-sponsored the "Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki" memorial on the waterfront. Every Wednesday, WILPF demonstrates and leaflets in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Those of us who dissent are not alone. Boycott the corporate media and start talking to people and you'll soon see that it's true. Dissent takes many forms and speaks in many voices but it is alive and well. WILPF is one organization that seeks peace in part by fighting a war against misinformation. If you would like to become involved in WILPF, call 503.224.5190, or come to Pioneer Courthouse Square during lunch on a Wednesday. They'll be there, "come rain or shine, snow or sleet".