Monday, August 22, 2005

Mayor of Salt Lake City Says Protest Is Patriotic

I lived in Salt Lake City from 1966 to 1970, the heyday of The Haight in San Francisco, when Salt Lake City was a stopover for many Eastern teenagers bound for "paradise california." Cut my political organizing teeth in Salt Lake City for the "children's crusade" of Sen. Eugene McCarthy. I was in Salt Lake City when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on television that he would not seek, nor would he accept, his party's nomination to run for reelection in 1968. That was McCarthy's doing. I was there too on that June night when Robert F. Kennedy got gunned down in L.A. Organizing neighborhood caucuses for McCarthy, I was no fan of the Kennedy brother, but I was impressed by his ability to pull support from the working class in that heartland of Mormonism. That same spring of 1968, Martin Luther King got gunned down in Memphis. My god, they were killing everybody back in those days, and I was watching it all from the City of the Saints.

So I used to know a little something about that place and was more than a little interested to hear that the current mayor out there, Rocky Anderson, a (gasp!) liberal Democrat, was leading what he hoped would be the biggest protest in Utah state history against the war policies of El Presidente, who is in Salt Lake City today to address a friendly crowd of veterans. Evidently, it won't be all that friendly outside on the street.

Don't know what the demographics are like there now, but in the late 1960s Salt Lake City proper was not majority Mormon, the most dependably Republican voting bloc this side of your friendly neighborhood Southern Baptist congregation, so even back then it was not unheard of to have maverick Democrats holding office in the state capitol of Utah.

Rocky Anderson is apparently a maverick Democrat. And an effective leader in urban revitalization. And he's not shy in his opinion about El Presidente's disastrous foreign policy nor in rallying opposition. He sent out an e-mail to ten activist leaders calling for a huge effort to show Mr. Bush that there's plenty of true-blue in the heart of the reddest state: "There should be a collaboration of health-care-provision advocates, seniors, the [gay, lesbian and bisexual and transsexual] community, anti-Patriot Act advocates and other civil libertarians, anti-war folks, pro-Social Security advocates, environmental advocates, anti-nuclear-testing advocates, and anti-nuclear-waste-shipment-and-storage advocates," the mayor wrote in the e-mail.

About which the local senior vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars said, "Excuse my French, but -- that son of a bitch! It makes the mayor look very, very unpatriotic. It makes him look despicable."

To which the mayor sensibly replied, "Patriotism demands that people speak out when we see our government officials acting in such anti-democratic and deceitful ways to the people of our country .... I don't understand people simply blindly going along with the sort of deceit and utter cruelty of this administration. It's not just we have the right to speak out, but we have the obligation to speak out when we see misconduct on the part of the government. The most patriotic thing we can do is stand up against the misuse of governmental power."

You tell 'em, Mayor! And say hello to the Saints for me.

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