Last weekend (July 30-August 1) the World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime magic bus tour hit Columbus with a laundry list of places and people to picket, protest, and pontificate on.
Sunday morning, WCW staged a drive-by protest of Rod Parsley’s World Harvest Church. On Monday, there were three protests: a counter-demo against the anti-illegal immigration Paul Revere Riders rally at the Statehouse; a “spy on the spy” action at Ohio Homeland Security; and a protest against Ken Blackwell at the Secretary of State‘s office downtown featuring (excuse the mixed metaphors) a verbal ass kicking by Free Press publisher and Green Party gubernatorial candidate Bob Fitrakis (and here) with music by Ukulele Man and Victoria Parks. Tuesday a small group picketed The Pregnancy Decision Health Center, a so-called "pregnancy crisis center" franchise operated by Heartbeat International near the OSU campus. There were also some smaller spur-of-the-moment actions. During a lunch break on Monday local activist Connie Harris and a friend decided just for fun to park near the Ohio Republican Party headquarters downtown with a couple of anti-Bush signs duct-taped to their car. Within five minutes the police showed up to "investigate,"the ill-mannered ladies.
For three days I tagged along with WCW, ostensibly to document and cover its actions. I may write something about it for the Columbus Free Press, but after a week of thinking on it, I'm at a loss as to what to say for "official" publication other than a few sentences of straight reporting on each event.
Full disclosure: I am no fan of WCW, having watched some of its leadership last May in Philadelphia purposefully distort the content and meaning of the Teen Mania Battle Cry event (see "Teen Mania: Lift the Banner" in the Free Press (hard copy only; article not yet on the FP site or here) at its protest and later over the Internet to fit its own membership-building agenda. This is not a criticism of well-intentioned WCW supporters and rank-and- file members, but simply a statement on what I, a seven-year observer of of Teen Mania Ministeres, witnessed. WWC could not get TTM right. In fact, I'm not sure it ever intended to. I was, therefore, leery that it could get--even if it wanted to-- Parsley and his minions--or anything else--right either.
What follows are my impressions and some pictures of the Parsley drive-by. In the next few days I will publish separate blogs on other events of the week. None of these pieces are intended to be definitive or objective accounts, but simply personal opinion sketches.
All photos by the author.
“But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow”
bounced around my head as we drove up and down and around and over Gender Road and back late Sunday morning. One (or at least, I) can't move too far from the thought that WCW is the invention of the cultish Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) (and here ) the gadfly of what passes for much of “progressive” politics in the US today. How an obscure state-snuggling, issue-squatting leftie group, with little credibility outside of the head of its founder, longtime expat Bob Avakian and his followers, has organized the physical presence of a critical part of the anti-war/anti-Bush movement is the US today (is there a difference?) is a subject to ponder at some later date. That RCP's latest eogtistical attempt to repolarlize to radicalize has been embraced, apparently without a background check, by such a wide spectrum of the reality-based, who in less perilous times would regard the RCP/WCW as a mid-20th century Maoist joke--Gore Vidal, Mark Crispin Miller, Daniel Ellsberg, Janis Karpinski, Grace Paley, and even Wavy Gravy and anarchists-- illustrates the sad state of current organized Bush opposition
But to get back to Sunday morning…
about 50, mosty local or Ohio World Can’t Wait members and friends gathered by the Goodale Park gazebo making protest signs and speeches. A good portion were young. Very young. A few had traveled across the country on the WCW bus. Two Columbus cops on bikes looked on boredly. The mood was festive. It’s not every day that Rod Parsley and his church get a public wupping.
Bush Step Down!
No Fascist Theocracy!
End the Neocon Culture of Death!
No slavery in Any Form!
World Can't Wait--Drive Out the Bush Regime!
"The Bible taken literally is a horror"--bobavakian.net
Despite the outward fun, the pre-event was predictably strident and mostly humorless. It was no pig-nic. Parlsey and his congregation, which includes a substantial number of African Amercians, were denounced as “christian fascists” without any explanation of what that meant much less any idea of who attends the church. The number of African American WCWers in Goodale Park could be counted on less than one hand.
Ponderous and serious speeches were read about Jesus and numerous Bush infractions of human decency. A young woman read a poem denouncing capitalism, corporatism, consumerism, pop music and fashion that sounded remarkably similar to Teen Mania’s Teenage Bill of Rights. A lighter moment came with the arrival of Jesus who is not amused by the Bush administration or Rod Parsley.
WCA, unlike many other lefties, are clock conscious. At exactly 11:30 after a rousing fist-waving salute to the people, the WCW caravan set off for World Harvest. A similar trip to Ohio Restoration Project and Patriot Pastor Russell Johnson’s Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster was put on hold due to logistics but mainly due to the cost of gas. "Progressives" don't believe in war chests but wonder why Republicans keep winning.
We arrived at the target about 25 minutes later, just in time for church to let out. The lock and load Parsleyites were, metaphorically speaking, dressed to over-kill. About 8 police cruisers, a land rover, a few motorcycle cops, and a police tow truck sat at the ready, along with WHC security and what I believe were a crew of World Harvest Media Men in Black videotaping the drive-bys (below left). There were a couple of easily ID'ed undercover cops, too. Although WCW could not enter private property (the parking lot, that is, or beyond), I heard secondhand, but can't verify, that a space had been set aside where protesters could park and protest closer to the church. reportedy the same space reserved two years ago for Flip Benham and Operation Save America's "friendly" Parsley pickets. I did not see any such space used. WCW apparently preferred a road loop and the after-service traffic jam to get its message across, whatever it was.
Like Bush, WCW doesn't do nuance. “Get out of Iraq!“ “Rod Parsley is a liar!” “Rod Parsley is a thief!” “Rod Parsley condones torture!” “Rod Parsley is a racist!” I began to feel like I'd missed something. Is it the Parsley Regime or Bush Regime that WCW wants to run out of Dodge? Some of the congregants stood in the parking lot wearing WTF expressions. Later, except for one “go to hell” from a passing car, Parslelyite response ran the gamut of “Jesus loves you” to “I’m praying for you.” The WHC Media Men in Black recorded it all for later broadcast on Reformation Ohio Jumbotrons or big screen church services. The Arlington Group (and here), RNC fundraisers, and Ken Blackwell, none of who do nuance either, will find the drive-by helpful. “This is the face of (fill-in-in-the blank): Liberals. Democrats. Homosexuals. Baby Killers. Women's Libbers, Pagans. Hedoninsts, Islamofascists. The Unsaved. Evolutionists. Lesbians. Nancy Boys. Embryo Flushers. The End Days. Anarchists in the streets.
What was the point of this Sunday morning fire hosing at World Harvest? What was the strategic thinking? What was the focus? The goal? Who, in fact, saw any of this outside of church members, cops, and neighbors? Sunday morning is dead air, but there was no press coverage that I saw. (Had the press even been alerted?) Did drive-by sloganeering on Gender Road have any meaning other than personal-is-political therapy for "progressives" or signing on a few new WCW members?
Connie Harris, who is not a WCW member but supports the anti-Bush movement says that the drive-by was about “getting the message out.” Fair enough. But what message?
Later a WCWer told me that Ohio was chosen as a target due to the convergence of issues here and the Blackwell candidacy and its ramifications. Again, fair enough. But, what was the purpose? Especially since the RCP disavows the electorial process.
The current christo-political situation in Ohio is complex and layered. WCW in "attacking" Parsley showed little understanding of theoconic history, context and lanaguage in general, and Parsley in particiular. While driving around shouting meaningless insults may have felt good, it did nothing to further the WCW's so-called goal of driving out the Bush regime. Instead, World Can't Wait legitimized rank-and-file fears, girded the opposition, and demonstrated the irrelevancy of 20th century protest strategies.
As an oppositional researcher documenting and writing about Biblical Ohio I was mainly interested in WCW strategies and motives and catching the reaction of the theoconic and Bushite recipients of WCW's drop-ins. The Gender Road action and reaction were predictable. The drive-by let the Progressive Gang vent and feel good about themselves. The Parsley Gang continued to operate from their safe spaces and feel good about themselves. Both groups fed off of each other's self-induced panic to build message and membersip, The theraputic pathologies,--the yin and the yang of Progressives and Regressives engaged seamlessly with nary a feather fuffled nor a sensibility rippled. When the dust bunnies scampered back into their holes it was business as usual.
When agit-props meet who is whose useful idiot?
NEXT; The Paul Revere Riders