Last week I was wandering downtown, tragically cameraless, when I encountered the UW chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops chanting outside Macy's, protesting the store's purchase of clothes created by non-unionized Guatemalans. "I remember those days," I thought to myself with a hint of wistfulness. Apparently it was a prelude to a more dramatic display in trash bags this weekend.
I moved to Seattle as a starry-eyed Seattle Pacific University freshman in the fall of 1999. So my induction to passionate and well-meaning - if uninformed - activism was the World Trade Organization rioting. What I mostly remember was swooning over the upperclassmen organizers, with their shaggy hair and damn-the-man attitudes.
Don't get me wrong, the use of underpaid and abused, often minor, laborers to get designer clothes on the cheap gives me the heebie jeebies. But international labor and trade tends to be a little more complicated than these students quite realize. Still, there's something to be said for passionate idealism.