If you’re a lefty, liberal, or radical (insert another label here if those three don’t cover you or refuse to be labelled), then you’ve probably hit the pavement for a good ole’ march or two. I imagine that most of the population of San Francisco has done some form of protest marching in the streets, even the folks up in Pacific Heights have probably done pro-dog marches, or one of the many many other marches that happen in the City (permitted or not). Coming from an area of the world that barely walks on the sidewalks, let alone the streets, and only protest when Starbucks gets their latte order wrong, I look forward to expressing myself in public with folks who tend to agree with my opinions.
Marching United States style is also an empty form of protest for making actual change in the world. More than once I’ve felt that my efforts in a march did little to actually chang things. I have imagined the thousands of people in the streets, taking that extra step that Ghandi would’ve done, and causing large-scale civil disobedience. At the RNC march last year in New York City, we had the potential to really give a message to the world, and our country. What if we ALL got arrested for our beliefs, not just the radicals who were planning smaller- scale civil disobedience. I mean tens of thousands of people celebrating life and bogging down the system for a solid shout to the world.
Getting arrested is a little bit above empty at this point too in the US. Arrest numbers in the hundreds make great headlines, but do little in the long run except the usual: jail solidarity, lawsuits, and endless ranting about brutality and the system. Don’t get me wrong, that story needs to be heard, but I’ve heard it over and over for the last 8 years of my life and shit still stinks in the United States.
If there is one march I look forward to every year, it’s the annual St. Stupid’s Day March. For a remarkable 27 years, Bishop Joey (aka Ed Holmes) and the Subgenius/Cacophony crew have created what is intentionally the most stupid march of them all. Simply, freaks of all stripes dress up, meet up, and act stupid in a procession which hits the Financial District on weekday April Fools and goes up into North Beach on weekend April Fools. It is literally a rare chance to make fun of ourselves, mock the system (church, banking, working, etc.), and create a very creative form of civil disobedience (I’m not sure if the march is permitted but know that folks in the march are definitely pushing the limits of public expression).
This year, I wore a pirate’s costume and held a sign that had three different messages. Side one said “Will Loot for Fool;” side two said “Where B Yar Booty?;” and side three stated “ARRGH!” I held plastic dynamite and walked up to gawkers asking them where the nearest bank was. I also walked up to retail windows and tapped the glass with my dynamite. I also intentionally planted a small amount of cannibas seeds in the nicely landscaped flowerbeds along the route.
This year, I thought about the act of leaving something behind. The seeds were a physical item I left behind. All the pennies thrown at the Bankers Heart sculpture are left behind (and Bank America returns them to Bishop Joey every year), as are the lottery tickets that get thrown out at the Federal Reserve Building. Oh, and there there are the socks at the Pacific Sock Exchange.
But looking deeper, what are the less tangible things that St. Stupid’s march leaves behind? Certainly confusion (since nothing is begin protested, many spectators don’t know what the march is about), and definitely video and photos (people came out of stores with phone cameras to shoot the freaks) for the folks back home to laugh over. I saw one group of tourists clicking away and wondered what they’d do with those images (read the signs closely, see the deeper more radical parts of the march, etc.)
On the day when activists get to make fun of themselves, when the main chant is “No More Chanting,” what St. Stupid’s truely brings to the world is a fresh way of recreating reality. People don’t really gawk at the mainstream ANSWER marches because the spectacle isn’t there to pull them in and intrigue them (unless it is a huge march). Imagine if the scale of the creativity of St. Stupid grew like Critical Mass. Imagine dozens of cities having their roving freak show that protests nothing except getting out of the banalities of your cognitariat existance.
Would this make an actual change in the world? Maybe or maybe not. But every April Fool’s Day, on the streets dressed like a freak, I see kids of all ages get sucked in. This year I left something behind for the kids with my “ARRGH!” sign. Almost every kid I arrghed to arrghed back. They read my sign and the subtle anti-war messages that were on there (anti-capitalist too). Subliminal juice for the overstimulated mind to soak in when they get back to their hotel rooms. And maybe remember for the rest of their lives.