This morning Vancouver saw a different kind of Peace Protest than it's been accustomed to: a modest stand for realistic peace, protesting the standard Utopian peace protestors.
Utopia–seeking delegates attending the morning presentations of the World Peace Forum at Vancouver’s prestigious Orpheum Theater will hopefully have been tainted by second thoughts for their dogmatic belief system, courtesy of three simple souls daring to think differenly from them, and to say so in the street, in public, with signs.
Dag, Truepeers and your humble correspondant planted ourselves outside the World Peace Forum’s venue this morning, carrying signs with various slogans, and had quite a memorable time engaging curious (and not so curious) delegates in dialogue that ranged from pleasant to antagonistic. The most offensive was probably the guy who hit my sign. Then in descending order: slurs and insults, sneering condescension, sympathy for our supposed mental retardation… the real dialogue ended up being with people who were genuinely curious about how we could be apostates to their utopian religion, and politely asked legitimate questions to which they patiently listened to our point of view. If any of you are reading this, thank you for your civil debate; we may agree to disagree, but I certainly respect the courtesy you granted my perspective, and I hope I matched it as I listened to yours.
The looks of amazement we got from so many of the delegates suggest how rarely they must actually encounter alternative points of view challenging their agenda. Growing up in Canada, we've had more than enough occasions to get used to hearing their view passed off as *the* view, but seemingly they've never heard ours, so we must come across as mysterious aliens from another planet. I can sympathize with their puzzlement, for I find myself as completely baffled by the world view that they painted for me, as they likely were by my recounting of current events as I see them.
Trying to encapsulate three hours of experiences like this morning's, into a tight little blog post is daunting. I'm going to tackle it in two posts, this one in more stream of consciousness fashion, then hopefully find the time to write a second one seeing the day from a more detached perspective.
First, meeting the various delegates. The three of us engaged in a series of dialogues with Israel-hating jews, business-hating wealthy suburbanites, anti-american americans, and a certain lady whom I shall always remember for sincerely describing to us how the New York Times is a terribly Right-Wing media outlet. She also went on to confess to having killed “one million Vietnamese”, and I-can’t-remember-how-many Iraqis. “America killed them, in my name, so I killed them”, was her heartfelt explanation.
When Dag offered her our blog address to read, she stopped him in mid-sentence to honestly admit she wasn't interested in reading anything we might have to say. Yet we are the ones who are "close-minded", you see.
This was the first time I had ever done any protesting or picketing of any kind. Even during my (short-lived, thank goodness) rite of passage as an anti-american Canadian, I never did anything like I did this morning. No wonder the left do these things so frequently, it is definitely an exhilarating experience. In retrospect, I realize I wasn’t prepared to engage in such basic debate and dialogue as was required. I’m not in practice anymore at explaining why Bush isn’t evil, for instance, that caught me a bit off-guard, and so I regret I may have fluffed my response once or twice.
What made the morning so fascinating, however, was the number of average people just passing by on the street on their way about town, who read my “God Bless America” sign, stopped to thank me, and explained why they agreed with me. Their simple eloquence, mixed with gratitude for my sign's bold yet simple statement, really made my day; and unlike the activist delegates quick to brandish their “peace studies” university degrees as their rationale for their point of view, the pro-US Canadians passing by on the street managed to briefly phrase the common sense of the common man in a way that has truly inspired me. What a thrill it can be to meet like-minded people sometimes. Just one of the approving smiles I got from these fellow citizens more than made up for having to wake up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning to talk to so many grumpy people wearing name tags.
Looking back, it was interesting how those talking to us expected us to be in absolute lock-step in our philosophy, chanting mono-syllabic verses just like in the usual left-wing protests nowadays, whereas in reality we were all there for somewhat different reasons. We are three distinct individuals, with sometimes radically different beliefs on certain issues, yet we can readily come together around a common cause and find a way to negociate through each other’s differing points of view, to act in united ways towards shared objectives. (hm, kind of reminds me a country I know...) We seemed to be encountering people who were more used to protestors incapable of holding a range of motivations and belief systems, and it probably led to quite a bit of confusion. (I noticed a particularly confused expression on one delegate’s face as he read my “God Bless America” sign while listening to Dag’s atheistic justification for intervention in the Middle East.)
It was genuine fun seeing how surprised the peace activists were by Truepeer's articulateness, I don' t think they were expecting that degree of intellectual firepower from "conservatives". Many would start off talking to us as if we were children; one sentence from Truepeers would usually put an end to that kind of tone.
Final thought for now... a comment echoing in my memory comes from the start of our morning, as a loudly sarcastic peace activist established her math skills by revealing that there were only three of us, compared to "four thousand" of them, as if that in itself should disqualify our existence. So symbolic of the left: undisguised contempt for the value of the individual, despite all the rhetoric of valuing "diversity".
Madam, sometimes it only takes three people to make a difference.
Sometimes it just takes one person.
You should try it sometime.