It’s been a busy week in Tampa. I have been at my Florida home (instead of preparing for school in Chicago) because I am interested in witnessing the Republican National Convention (RNC) activities. When hurricane Isaac developed in the Gulf, I was certainly glad that I was with my teenagers to help them buy water, batteries and gas, just in case we lost power or needed to evacuate quickly. Not being with your children while watching a natural disaster approach on television is the worst form of slow torture. (I feel sorry for my friends in Louisiana right now…)
While I was supposed to be setting up my Blackboard sites online, I found myself roving the streets with RNC protesters and listening to Tampa’s excellent community radio station, WMNF. Marches and protests are planned for the entire RNC week in Tampa. Jon Stewart's Daily Show arrived on Tuesday night. (Opening VO of show--"A party too patriotic for facts. A candidate too successful for taxes. A city too humid to breathe..) Isaac has certainly affected attendance at events — both inside and outside the convention — but not the enthusiasm of the activists. Streets are blocked off and police with new uniforms and bikes are everywhere, but both sides have been well behaved so far.
I stopped by a CodePink training workshop at a coffee shop, where members were sewing pink vagina costumes and getting advice from the National Lawyer’s Guild about safety and legal rights. I wanted to find Medea Benjamin -- perhaps the most visible activist at the convention and a creator of the group. Medea, as everyone calls her, has recently finished a book on Drone Warfare and led a protest last Thursday at Tampa’s Raytheon factory, one of the manufacturers of drones. Thanks to Medea, CodePink is just as active with anti-weapons and anti-poverty issues as they are with “pinker” pro-choice, health care, and childcare goals. Since Obama has fully supported the development of drone warfare, CodePink plans to be at the DNC convention in Charlotte as well.
After witnessing low attendance at protest events, I was sorry that Tampa did not have any Pussy Rioters to accompany the CodePink costumes! (The postmodernist in me supports replacing the word “vagina” with “pussy” for political events…) Say what you want to about vagina imagery, but with Todd Akin’s rhetorical gaffe of the year and V. P. candidate Paul Ryan’s equation of rape with a “method of conception” the RNC does not need much help with alienating a large part of the voting population with their gender issues. Attendance may have been low because of Isaac, but the obvious outcome of this election may also be part of the problem.
Medea Benjamin was being interviewed in another location when I stopped by CodePink's Tampa headquarters, so I spent time with their media coordinator, Alli McCracken. Alli was escorted out of the convention (and received international publicity) for yelling out during the speeches of both Gov. Scott Walker and Rick Santorum. After graduating from Hobart & William Smith colleges, where she majored in political science and religious studies, Alli started out as an intern at CodePink. In college she became active in Middle Eastern politics and soon traveled to Palestine. Following that experience, she committed to a life of activism and joined CodePink. Her dedication to ideas gave me the right feeling that I needed to return home, write this column and finish my syllabi.
Thanks Alli. Your enthusiasm and commitment inspire me to keep going as an educator. Education should always be about finding your passion…