Yesterday I spoke about Chris Hedges and some of the ways in which he has inspired me. Today I wish to start out be recounting my experience with a man named Ryan Harvey. When I was a member of a local, student organizing group called Students for Peace and Justice, one of the events we threw involved flying out a singer/writer/Anarchist by the name of Ryan Harvey. I personally had never heard of him and was not too involved with the organizing that brought him out here, I was too busy trying to plant the seeds of the new business I would eventually grow to love and hate. I missed the concert because I had to work late, and returned to an empty house (at the time there were five of us living in the “Habitat” house). Around 11:30 that night, a group of people entered the house for what would be the after party. Not wanting to feel left out, I went downstairs and joined the group, seeing some familiar faces and some newcomers. I sat on the ground and listened to a conversation, the contents of which I have no recollection of. Eventually I met Ryan, as he recognized me from some event in the past – either the DNC in Denver or a random meeting in New Jersey – and we began to talk. Ryan spent the weekend at our house, riding on the back of my motorcycle up the windy mountain roads that lead to Nederland. As a person, I thought he was fun, but nothing about him really stood out. In the back of a roommates Subaru on the way to Denver International Airport, Ryan gave me five of his CD’s and one compilation of all of Riot-Folk. Over the next three to four months, I became obsessed with these dozens of songs; I was taken back to the days when I first discovered Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie. The actual music wasn’t anything to write home about, but the words made brought tears to my eyes on countless occasions. I’ve only talked to Ryan once since he left, but I have read a number of his writings, including a piece he published today in Common Dreams.
Ryan speaks a lot about war and in the particular piece, writes a what-if. What if the explosions and lit up skies that took place around Baltimore on Sunday were not fireworks, but instead an invasion of foreign occupiers? He goes on to reflect – similar to Hedges yesterday and myself almost every day – about the disgusting ways in which we glorify war and violence. I can’t help but think of Oscar Grant (who, I have a sick feeling I will be reading and writing about often over the next few days). We hear about what is happening on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and countless over war-torn countries, but do we really understand? When I watched the video of the BART “cop” stand up, pull out his gun, and execute the defenseless Grant, it was an image I couldn’t shake for months. The gunshot, the slight jerk of Grant’s body as the bullet did its job, the stunned silence of the crowd; these are all things that replayed over and over in my head since the first time I googled Oscar’s name. There are men and women dressed in uniforms that our tax dollars pay for, using guns and rocket launchers that our tax dollars buy, to kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people around the globe. Instead of spending July 4th contemplating this, having conversations about what independence really means, we celebrate…what? Obviously not all of us have our heads in the dirt, but do any of us have our heads fully removed?