Two weeks ago, Tigrayan expats decided to protest against the genocide in Ethiopia that has been going on for two years, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their people so far. I genuinely believe that this is an outrage that is worthy of protest. I’m glad these protestors got our attention for one brief, shining moment.
In this internet age, people in general and Americans specifically are hit with so much information that they are hard-pressed to focus on anything. They’re too overwhelmed. There are too many atrocities in the world. There are too many problems to solve.
While it’s hard to believe we could forget about an entire war, this is not the first time we’ve done so. I’m sure it won’t be the last. We don’t seem to care about anything unless it impacts us directly.
This protest was an act of desperation for the Tigrayan community in Seattle, which is the second largest in America. Only Washington DC has a larger community than ours. Back home, their people are dying. They’re being bombed and tortured and starved. The expats have no way of communicating with the loved ones they left behind, so they don’t know whether to grieve or “just” worry.
So, on Friday, November 4th, during afternoon rush hour traffic on the only North/South interstate that goes through the city, a large group of protesters gathered, blocking not only Northbound I-5, but also the I-90 ramps to I-5 in both directions. As if the Friday afternoon commute didn’t suck enough in this densely populated town. This, of course, caused total gridlock city wide.
Fortunately, I was going southbound. My commute time was “only” doubled, due to lookie-loos and people trying to take less familiar routes home. But I saw the Northbound traffic, at a complete standstill, for nearly 6 miles. And it remained that way for over an hour.
I’m sure a lot of people were weeping tears of frustration, trying to get home after an exhausting week of work, trying to pick up their children from school, trying to get to some much-needed food, and desperately wanting to pee. Not to mention that there was at least one ambulance caught in that mess, and it was carrying a patient in critical condition to the hospital. The police had to clear one lane to get them through, and it caused a significant delay. I hope that guy is okay.
I think that the general city-wide irritation quotient must have spiked higher than it should have because most of us didn’t know what was causing this delay until it was nearly over with, and even then, we were told there were only 6 protesters, instead of the several dozen that were actually on the scene. There were also several police cars present because it’s illegal to protest on an interstate, but in the end, they made no arrests.
It’s amazing how the forgotten slaughter of an entire group of people can make you sound like a whiny little b**ch when you complain about an hour and a half of your life being taken from you. It makes me feel rather pathetic and bloated with false privilege. It also made me drop the illusion that I have any control whatsoever regarding anything in life. But I can’t sustain that reality for long or I’ll go completely mad.
This protest hit every single local news outlet. It was talked about for days afterward. If reminding us/educating us all about this horrible genocide was their only goal, then I’d say mission accomplished, and then some.
But is that what they were trying to achieve? Or were they hoping to bring an end to a senseless war? If that was the plan, I don’t think shutting down Seattle was the best way to get people on their side.
I’d be all for a protest in front of an Ethiopian Embassy. I’d even be down for a protest that targeted some part of the American Bureaucracy, or even that of a local government agency if it has investments in Ethiopia. Power to the people! But blocking a lot of random individuals on an interstate? That had the wrong kind of impact.
I know I was frustrated. And I still, to this day, have no idea what I could do to help end this genocide. I have never believed that thoughts and prayers were that effective. I can chant, “May peace prevail upon the earth” a million times, and there will still be power-hungry a**holes acting out all over the globe.
I could call my congressperson. Yeah, yeah. But we’re all starting to realize that the political agenda and the people’s agenda are mutually exclusive. The American government is not going to care about Ethiopia until that caring benefits them.
I don’t think blocking traffic on a Seattle interstate is going to change a thing in Ethiopia, any more than pouring soup on an artistic masterpiece is going to stop oil. Are these protests masterpieces for their causes, or are they just a speed bump on the roads of our lives; a mild irritant until we move on? I suppose time will tell.
It’s the oil protesters who should block interstates. And maybe the genocide protesters should be pouring tomato soup on the politicians. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that, even though I don’t condone violence in even the soupiest of forms.
The bottom line is that I think that the bulk of us whiners stuck in that commute from hell were made to whine for no good reason. I feel bad that that’s the case. Truly I do. But the only change it brought about from my perspective is that I got another reminder of my helplessness, and I had to take a nap when I got home. As I drifted off, I was grateful that I had a warm, dry, and safe home to go to.
But as I write this, the war in Ethiopia rages on, despite the Ethiopian Government signing a cessation of hostilities agreement a few days prior to the Seattle protest. And this surprises me not at all. Homo sapiens may think they are a superior species, but they’re sadly mistaken. Lest we forget, we humans are simply primates with delusions of grandeur, and we’ve proven, time and time again, that our prime motivation is power tightly intertwined with greed and selfishness.
Slightly off topic: I’ve been struggling with the reasons for my outrage at those throwing soup on masterpieces, but if you want a spot-on, albeit foul-mouthed explanation as to why this activism is so unacceptable, check out this Facebook Post by Advocatus Peregrini. Well said, indeed.