- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 1999

This has been a good week for Pat Buchanan.Even Bill Clinton is speaking his language, with agood ol’ boy’s accent.

A president, even this president, couldn’t lookat the ragtag army in the streets of Seattle, theunionists and protectionists, the Dyke Action andthe Raging Grannies, the anarchists and thegreenies, and not want someone, a cop or aGuardsman, to (as Jimmy Carter might phrase it)”whup their arse.”

But Bill Clinton, organizer of riots against theVietnam War he dodged, couldn’t help himself. Sohe lined up with the Dykes and Grannies, theaging hippies, the superannuated vandals wist-fully remembering the search for cheap sex, loudmusic and revolution in distant streets wherechaos reigned. Even with Pat Buchanan’s famousPitchfork Brigade. Said the president: “I stronglybelieve that we should open up the process to allthose people who are there demonstrating on theoutside.” Pat couldn’t have said it better himself.

Liberating Starbucks and trashing Gap is tothis generation what levitating the Pentagon andsplashing blood in the filing cabinets of an Armyrecruiting office was for their mommies and dad-dies. For one brief, shining moment we were backin the ‘60s, that sordid decade of self-righteousdecadence that stirs nostalgia only in the heartsof those who were not there.

Nevertheless, a lot of people were rooting forthe hippies and yippies and serendipities. It waslike rooting against the fuzz in those old JamesCagney movies of the ‘30s, and this time we didn’thave to get close enough to sniff the body odorand vegan breath. Anyone who ever had an ar-gument with the telephone company or an airlineclerk, every father looking for missing batteriesfor the kids’ toys late of a Christmas eve, everytechno-weenie who ever railed at Bill Gates foran idiocy in Windows 95, couldn’t help feeling asurge of sympathy for the folks fencing with plac-ards against the knives of the multinationals.

“One almost hesitates to go to McDonald’s,”writes Boris Johnson in a dispatch to the LondonDaily Telegraph, “in case one should meet someold buddy chaining himself to the tables in sym-pathy with the Seattle mob. Perhaps the entireTory party, already in thrall to the hysteriaagainst genetically modified food and themultinationals’ who make it, will flip over to be-come the party of autarky and pastoralism. Orperhaps one should lie in a darkened room with atowel around the head … till the feeling passes.”

The president saddled up but he was havingtrouble riding off in his usual two directions.Soon enough the fun was over, and the delegatesto Seattle settled down instuffy hotel ballrooms toargue about workers’rights and environmentalsafeguards who has’em and who needs ‘em,and who doesn’t want’em.

The delegates from theThird World countries,populated by the huddledmasses at their sewingmachines and cobbler’slasts or soldering thripsand nematodes to mot-herboards and UBS ports, don’t want to talkabout workers’ rights and environmental safe-guards. For once they may even speak for theirconstituents.

Anyone who has traveled the back roads of In-dia and Pakistan or the trails through the humidgreen mists of Malaysia and outlying Indonesiaor to upcountry Thailand can understand why.For the first time in their lives the people wholive there, however oppressed by the standards ofthe West, have jobs, and regard them not so muchas good jobs but as wonderful jobs.

With a flourish, the president used Seattle asthe site for signing the International Labor Orga-nization treaty prohibiting child labor, slaveryand prostitution, which thrive in certain eddies ofthe Third World, principally Africa. Since, as thepresident says, the treaty “affirms fundamentalhuman rights and emphasizes the fragility andimportance of childhood,” nobody objects to it.But when Mr. Clinton used the WTO session tourge more attention be given to workers’ rightsand to caring for the environment, many of thedelegates balked. The president, as the churchlady said when the country parson back in Ar-kansas chided the sisters for dippin’ snuff, hadquit preaching and gone to meddling.

Said the leader of the delegation from Thai-land, where making shirts for the Pittsburghsteelworkers, the Detroit car builders and theSilicon Valley computer geeks has lifted manypeasants to what passes for a middle class: “Iknow it is an important issue for the UnitedStates administration, but to have trade sanctionslinked to labor rights violations would be reallyultimately highly detrimental.”

Hard questions. No easy answers. But breakingwindows, shouting slogans and marching to theclosest drummer, as certain survivors of the ‘60sno doubt told them, is fun.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide