In just a few weeks, two major events will take place in New York City. For the first time in its history, the Republican Party is bringing its national convention to the Big Apple. The Republicans have also scheduled their show as late in the election season as they possibly could, later than any other convention by either party has ever been held.
What are they up to? Why come into a traditionally Democratic stronghold and why convene so late?
No one has said it, but without too much thought it is obvious that the Republican Party would like to get some political mileage from being as close to Ground Zero as possible—both geographically close and close in terms of the 9/11 anniversary date.
Of course, it isn’t new for the Bush administration to look for ways to take advantage of the tragedy and horror of what happened on 9/11 three years ago. From day one, the president and his close circle used the attack as an excuse to push through their agenda of war overseas and assaults on our civil liberties at home. In a matter of several weeks, the mammoth Patriot Act I was passed by Congress. Hundreds of pages long, there is no way this comprehensive assault on the Constitution could possibly have been written after 9/11; it had to have been in the works for weeks, if not months, prior to that date.
In the spring of 2003, George W. Bush and his cronies took this country to war against Iraq. They lied about why this drastic, deadly course of action was necessary. They said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They said the Iraqi government had ties with Al Qaeda and international terrorists. They even said there was a connection between Iraq and the attacks here on 9/11. Yes, this administration lied and they used the pain and fears generated by 9/11 to justify a war they longed for, a war whose goal was control of the vast oil reserves in Iraq.
War abroad has always meant repression at home. This is not new in our nation’s history, it has just been brought to a more dangerous and frightening level by the people currently running this government. And what is particularly alarming is that these are just two of the core components of a comprehensive right-wing agenda that the Republican Party has been pushing forward.
Their agenda includes everything from putting semi-automatic assault weapons back on the streets to massive tax breaks for the super wealthy, from cuts on every social program to undoing even the smallest of environmental protections, from attacking the right of women to control our own reproductive lives to protecting the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as more and more people suffer from inadequate or non-existent health services.
Their agenda includes an all-out assault on sexual freedom and the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people. The same people who bring us war based on lies refuse to seriously address the global AIDS/HIV epidemic. The same people who claim to defend the family and family values refuse to honor the families we create based on love. You get the idea.
And this brings me to the second major event that will take place here in New York City at the end of the summer. As Republicans are wined and dined and treated as royalty, as they gather to re-nominate George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, massive numbers of people will march through the streets of Manhattan saying NO TO THE BUSH AGENDA.
On Sunday, August 29, United for Peace and Justice is organizing what promises to be one of the largest demonstrations this city has ever seen. People from every neighborhood of New York, from every county in the metropolitan area and from around the country will make our voices heard the day before the Republican convention opens. As we march in front of Madison Square Garden we will say no to the war, greed, hate and lies of this administration and no to their right-wing agenda. We will demand an end to the war and occupation in Iraq; it is time to bring our troops home! And we will say no to a foreign policy based on militarism and empire building.
Instead, we want a foreign policy based on respect for international law, respect for the sovereignty of independent nations and a commitment to protecting every person’s human rights.
We will demand a democracy grounded in an absolute commitment to the rights and liberties of all people—regardless of what country they came from, when they came to this nation, what the color of their skin is, or what sexual orientation they have. Our individual and collective security lies in economic and social justice, in jobs and health care, in education and a clean environment.
Everyone, every community, is invited to join this massive outpouring on August 29. Bring your banners and signs and flags and chants and songs. Bring your friends and families, your lovers and co-workers. Bring your energy and creativity.
On Sunday, August 29, we will march for peace and we will march for justice. Another world is possible… together, let’s take an important step toward that new world.
Leslie Cagan is the national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice. Visit unitedforpeace.org or call 212 868 5545 for details about August 29, to get a full calendar of other activities related to the Republican National Convention or to volunteer.