Student activists pulled off a major victory here at UCSB, mobilizing 1000+ students to skip class and march against the Iraq war. Erik Love has a rundown over on the Most Important Blog...Ever. Included in his report are pictures of the "counter demonstration" semi-organized by the College Republicans. Their statement? Drinking beer and eating hamburgers, as well as hoisting three flags in "opposition" to the march: The United States. The POW-MIA flag. A Bud Light flag.
I am always amazed when people play right into our lazy stereotypes. The CR's paid for the beer and hamburgers. That was their political act: an affirmation of both political and cultural nationalism. Support the war. Eat meat. Drink Bud Light.
Collegate conservatism is, at it's core, a cultural movement- an explicit rejection of all things "radical" or "countercultural". While there is an organized campus right that is at least as ideologically sophisticated as the campus left (for better or worse), what dominates is a high-school style reaction by the "jocks" against the "freaks". I am reminded of scenes in the Strawberry Statement, a flawed but well-written account of the Columbia University uprising in the late 1960's. While radical students occupied buildings, jocks and frat boys surrounded them in phalanxes, and attacked those trying to ferry food and water to the protesters. These guys with their patriotic bar-b-q are replaying those roles, just as yesterday's protesters perpetuated 60's cultural trappings, slogans and tactics.
The campus right is xenophobic, homophobic, mysoginistic, classist and racist. It is also, however, somewhat populist, playing into a generalized alienation by average students from outlandish, cliquish, "activist" culture. That's the point behind a counter demonstration that features beer and a grill. It says: "Regular people like America, beer and beef. Those freaks out there are just being freaky for its own sake."
It's not surprising that such a tactic doesn't fly so well here at UCSB, where hyper patriotism is generally uncool. However, in general, it has been an effective strategy by the right in exoticizing and marginalizing the left on campus and off.
I don't want to overplay the cultural to the exclusion of the political. College Republicans and their audience have dangerous politics, and are being trained to bring those politics into the corporate institutions they aspire to join. However, the trick for the campus left is always to insure that it doesn't also fixate on cultural differences on campus. What was great about these scenes from yesterday's marches are how goddamned normal so many of the protesters look. I'm all for free expression, but the left doesn't get anywhere if it simply plays into its own marginalization. So, by all means, let your freak flag fly, but create a safe space for the 'normals' as well. You shouldn't have to make a lifestyle choice in order to be on the right side. Successfully doing that is what makes the frat boy right, at school and in the broader political culture, look so stupid.
Etiketter: The Right