“We do what we can.” This quote was taken from the film our class viewed last week, Operation Lysistrata, and was given in the context of an Arabic Proverb that meant to convey a sense of realism and pragmatism around our efforts to fight for change. Sounds simple enough right?
Well as I began to think further about Operation Lysistrata, a tremendous world-wide protest of the reckless manner in which George Bush plunged the country into a senseless war with Iraq, I began to really scrutinize this phrase. To be sure, the thousands, maybe millions of people involved in and touched by Operation Lyistrata were not capable of strolling into the Oval Office and demanding that George Bush call off the dogs of war. The protest, a performance of the humorous anti-war play, Lysistrata, definitely required long hours of toil and an unspeakable effort for coordination. One gentleman in the film remarked that the demonstration was a way of saying, “If you do this, it is not in our name,” to the American government and to the world. I wholeheartedly agree here. But I cannot readily accept the idea that any protest movement is the best protest movement, that every act of resistance chosen was the only act available. I have to wonder whether or not “we do what we can” is another way of saying “We do what we want. What is comfortable, what is safe, what will ease our consciences.”
Now in no way do I mean to suggest that the motives of these individuals are somehow questionable, that is beyond me, or anyone for that matter. But what I am saying is that we must be accountable for the manner in which we declare that an evil is not done in our name. Fighting oppression and injustice will never be as easy or enjoyable as we might like it to be. Sacrifice is inseparable from resistance. And on a world stage where millions of innocent Iraqi men, women, and children were murdered, and where thousands of American soldiers’ lives were taken we must examine our sacrifices and how they measure up. An anti-war protest is not successful simply because it prevents war, but throwing a rock at a brick wall does nothing to bring that wall down.
Finally, as I examine our course of action for our final project of the class, these same questions linger. Of course I can always revert back to the rhetoric of “many ripples start with one small stone” or “we can only do so much,” both of which are very true, but I just wonder, is it because we only want to do so much?