20 January 2006

Right Message, Wrong Place?

I have the deepest sympathy for the people of Southern Sudan enduring genocidal violence directed at them. I've addressed the issue here, here, here, here and most comprehensively, here, but I'm still not sure I understand the point of holding the rally for action on Sudan that I saw on the Colorado's capital steps in Denver this afternoon, as I was walking to the office from a lunch meeting downtown. There were maybe a dozen activists carrying signs, including a couple of people who appeared to be Sudanese expatriots.

What in the world can Colorado legislators or our Governor, for that matter, do to end a North African war? Policy usually trumps process, and the tendency of a hot policy issue to impact officials at every level of government is patently obvious here, but ending genocide in Sudan is about as clearly a job for the federal government in our country as I can imagine.

Isn't there an embassy, or a consulate, or a branch office of the U.S. State Department, or Senatorial office building or something more relevant around town to protest in front of? Heck, Denver's own World Trade Center is right down the street and they could have been calling for corporate America to disinvest itself from those who do business with the Sudanese government in the course of world trade, and had a list of guilty businesses on a flier to hand out. But, I'm pretty sure that our state treasurer, whose office is the first door on the left as you come into the capital, doesn't have a lot of money invested in Sudan or anything even dimly related to that genocide plagued country.

I suppose that all publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right, and that action can't hurt, but the only Coloradans in a position to make much of an impact here are the nine people who make up our delegation in Congress. Bush appears to have commited himself to a policy whining without action, so indirect action to get at him through a rally in Colorado seems fruitless.

The risk of such a rally, of course, is to make your supporters look like they don't have even a basic grasp of civics, which in turn calls in to question how much of a grasp they have on the issue with respect to which they are seeking redress. Most of politics is symbolic, and if you are going to play in the world of symbols, you ought to try to get them right.

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