When I first heard CNN’s Jack Cafferty ask his viewers what would they miss most about Bush, I shook my head and said “absolutely nothing”.
But then I started thinking about it, wondering how my life would have turned out if there had never been an election fiasco in Palm Beach County in 2000. If there had never been a hanging chad or an inverted dimple or a butterfly ballot.
If the Supreme Court had never stepped in and selected George W. Bush as our 43rd president.
For one thing, I would not have developed such a passion for photographing activism.
Thank you, Bush. You showed many Americans the true value of the U.S. Constitution.
After all, when you can still march down Broadway in New York City holding signs stating “Fuck Off Bush”, “Fuck Your War” and “Imprison The Criminal” and not be arrested for it, all is not lost.
I was living in Phoenix when Bush first became president, working as a reporter for The Arizona Republic. I remember feeling helpless as my home state fell into chaos with only 538 votes separating Bush from Al Gore. I remember feeling robbed when the Supreme Court stepped in and handed Bush the presidency, making him the first president to win the White House without winning the popular vote since 1888 (and only the fourth in U.S. history to do so).
And I remember feeling angry at the corporate media, which I was part of, for not making a bigger fuss over this abuse of our sacred separation of powers.
That feeling lasted until Sept. 11th, 2001 when I realized that we needed to come together as a country. I backed Bush up 100 percent when he vowed to track Osama bin Laden down and bring him back “dead or alive”.
But then he started talking about Iraq. About Saddam Hussein. About weapons of mass destruction. And I knew he was full of shit. But the media continued to cheer him on.
By the time his reelection rolled around, I had quit my job and returned to Miami in the hopes that I could make a difference in my home state. I volunteered for Kerry. I volunteered for MoveOn. And I started photographing political rallies.
After Bush was re-elected in 2004, I was convinced – and still am – that he stole the presidency through the use of computer voting machines. But again, the media didn’t seem to care.
In March 2005, more than 100 people gathered in downtown Miami to protest the second anniversary of the war. Not only was there a group of counter-protesters who accused of being traitors, countless people in cars flicked us off.
Then came Katrina in August 2005 and there was no turning back. I flew to Washington DC a month later for an antiwar protest where an estimated 250,000 people marched against Bush and his war and his crimes. We ended up surrounding the White House, but Bush was back home in Texas relaxing at his ranch.
Many veterans from the Iraq War, including some who had returned home in wheelchairs, participated in this march.
After returning to Miami, I sought out local activist groups and started photographing local protests, including one in Fort Lauderdale in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, in which you can see a boarded-up building in the background.
In January 2006, during Bush’s State of the Union address, about 100 people gathered in downtown Fort Lauderdale to protest Bush and his war. By this time, I started shooting only in RAW format instead of JPG, so there is a noticeable improvement in the quality of my photos.
And in May 2006, I flew to New York and photographed another antiwar protest where an estimated 250,000 people marched down Broadway, which is where I took the top two photos in this thread. The two photos below were also taken during this protest.
In January 2007, during another antiwar protest on Miami Beach, it was becoming noticeable that the tide was turning because there was a significant increase in horns blowing in support of us instead of drivers flicking us off. And the counter-demonstrators had long disappeared.
Dave Patlak, pictured below, a veteran who ran against Ileana Ros-Lehiten in 2006, was one of several veterans attending that protest.
So when Jack Cafferty asks what will I miss most about Bush, it is most definitely the protests. Because throughout all the protests I photographed, including the ones that had nothing to do with Bush and the smaller ones I did not even post here, I never came close to getting arrested.
So although it sometimes seemed as if it was, democracy was never dead.