Among the Immigrants:
In Union Square, in Manhattan, over at the immigrant rights protest, the Rude Pundit kept getting smacked in the face with the American flag. Walking among the tens of thousands of gathered immigrants, sympathizers, media, and gawkers, no matter where the Rude Pundit turned, someone was shoving the stars and stripes in his face. And if he wasn't getting slapped with Ol' Glory, he was getting poked by small sticks that held the flags. The American flag was ubiquitous, tied to other flags of other nations, placed on cardboard tubes with those flags, waved with fervor whenever anyone started a chant of "Si, se puede." Nobody was going to accuse these protests of being anti-American. It was the most pro-American rally the Rude Pundit's seen since the Republican convention. The American flag was selling for five bucks a pop from the dozens of vendors there. You could get flags of other countries, sure, for the same price. Each flag had a little tag on it that read, "Made in China."

People with their flags climbed onto the statue of a horse-riding George Washington at the bottom of Union Square. The statue commemorates Evacuation Day on November 25, 1783, when George Washington rode triumphantly back into New York City as the last British troops evacuated the city they had held for seven years and great swaths of Manhattan had been wrecked by the occupation. The population dropped forty percent after the British left. It would take the influx of European immigrants, assisted by laws like the Naturalization Act of 1790, which said that anyone - well, any "free white person"- who lives in the U.S. for two years may apply to become a citizen, to really make the population explode. Ah, sweet nation-building.

Yesterday, non-white persons ascended the statue and adorned it with flags from Puerto Rico and Ecuador. Then one swarthy protester braved the bronze to plant an anti-imperialism Che Guevara sign in Washington's stirrup. Yes, Che Guevara was everywhere, on signs and shirts, the de-fanged fashion icon presumed to still be a threat to the Yanquis, one presumes. There he was again, under George Washington's foot.

And, yes, there were those Michelle Malkin-ready signs, the kind that show up on her blog as a way of discrediting an entire movement. Unlike Malkin and her ilk-in, people who prefer to exist with their heads so far up their asses that they can lick their own uvulas, the Rude Pundit actually went up to the young Latino with the crudely written "Let's Kill Bush" poster and asked him why he decided to go with that sentiment. What he got in response was not a crazy, "fuck you, gringo" attitude. Instead, the teenager said, "Bush sends people to die, so, you know, an eye for an eye." Hey, what the hell - it's biblical, right? The Rude Pundit wished him luck with the cops and headed in the opposite direction in case batons started pummeling, only to get slapped in the face with an American flag.

But, shit, besides the constant beat down by the star-spangled banner, there was much excitement in the air as cameramen from different news organizations implored people to start chanting so they could get some good b-roll for the evening broadcast, there was the gigantic sign that had a picture of Lou Dobbs, CNN's waspish face for legitimizing racism, with a Nazi symbol on his head, and there were thankfully few puppets. Among the vastly Hispanic crowd there were also signs of other people, flags of other countries, including one small group from Pakistan who held a sign that said, "Islam is about love."

In the end, the speeches couldn't be heard, the atmosphere more day-off party than protest. Does the Rude Pundit sound bored? Perhaps there's not enough heartwarming stories here of families, with their small children waving American flags and that kind of shit that makes us all feel good about being nice and liberal and warm and fuzzy and a little less guilty for being (if you are) white. Fuck that. Go somewhere else for that.

Between Saturday's March for Peace and yesterday's protests, the Rude Pundit has realized that the greatest problem with protest in America is that it's too fuckin' nice. It's all well-regulated and permitted and placed so that it inconveniences as few people as possible. This is protest against the powerful that is sanctioned by the powerful and, indeed, is that truly protest at all?

A real protest shuts shit down, fucks up the day, goes on so that the powerful have to listen or take a strong stand against the protesters. A real protest doesn't stay on the sanctioned path - it veers off and tries to get those who aren't part of the crowd to join in. Back thirty-six years ago, with its anniversary on Thursday, on May 4, 1970, protesters got shot and killed at Kent State for not listening to those who would tell them how to speak freely in this allegedly free society. The Rude Pundit knows someone who was there who said to him, "It was the hardest thing in the world to get up the next day and march. But you had to. Otherwise they had won."

If those in power can merely condescendingly look at hundreds of thousands of marching people and say, as the President and so many do, "Isn't it great that people in a free country get to express themselves," then that protest is a failure. In other words, get that fucking flag out of the Rude Pundit's face.