If some of the most embarrassing diplomacy in the nation's history has you feeling less than enthusiastic about being an American, perhaps it's time you did something about it. After all, as Sam Gould of local arts collective Red76 says, "Nothing ever happens if you don't do anything."
So to help you engage your inner activist, Gould and Gabriel Mindel-Saloman (of the recently disbanded Yellow Swans) have begun hosting a series of antiwar events aimed at exploring what activism can be in 2008, while creating a supportive environment for veterans. For their second No War USO event, a corridor of North Portland will be declared a "domestic demilitarized zone," thereby reminding residents and visitors of the liberties they enjoy and, of course, that there is a war going on.
The day's festivities will include live music, bicycle-driven DJ stations, and yard sales, culminating with a "Picnic-In" at Peninsula Park at 4 pm. Gould and Mindel-Saloman have also created a hotline (1-888-445-9148) where people can share how the Iraq War has affected their lives.
MERCURY: What inspired No War USO?
GOULD: The idea grew from conversations Gabriel and I were having about holding benefits for veterans of the war. We kept hearing from veterans that they were dissatisfied with the idea of what a political protest has to be. A lot has changed since the '60s and this is a very different war, so it would follow that ideas are exchanged differently.
What do you hope participants take away from these events?
MINDEL-SALOMAN: Basically, we'd like to challenge people to re-engage with their imaginations. We're not asking people to become eco-terrorists and don't want to tell people what activism is. We're just acting as enablers for some form of activism.
Do you think it's possible to be patriotic, when "patriot" has become such a dirty word?
GOULD: Obviously, that's a loaded term. And there's a Franklin quote that "patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels." But yes, there are countless people within the history of this country that I take great pride in being in consort with as Americans.