Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sacrificing My Back for the Cause

I arrived home from Washington, DC, last night at 4:30 a.m., too tired and smelly to appreciate the great work I and "several tens of thousands" others had done earlier that day on the Capital Mall. After a quick shower I counted sheep until only 8:30 a.m., since I had another responsibility at church this morning and needed to prepare for it. "French Toast" was the lunch menu, compliments of the Good Witch - now I begin the retrospective.

God had mercy on those with good intentions, since the weather in Washington was better than fine. The temperature was about 50 degrees, a slight breeze fluttered the larger signs, and the light was bright but filtered through some medium height clouds - perfect for photography!

A crowd estimated at less than 100,000, swelled by busloads of people from all over the U.S., joined to admire each other's protest signs, chant slogans, listen to short speeches by congressmen (Dennis Kucinich), old pro's (Jesse Jackson), actors (Susan Sarandan), and others of their kind. Jane Fonda came out of retirement as an anti-war activist after 34 years away from the microphone! The Capital stood majestically at the end of the Mall nearest the speakers stand, and I could not help but recall the famous Forrest Gump protest scene as I walked not far from the reflecting pool. No beautiful blonde called to me, though.

As a veteran of a previous protest in Rochester, I expected to meet people of many groups who have an interest in stopping the "surge" or the war itself. And so I did: communists, socialists, Quakers, Unitarians, vegetarians, academics, Vietnam War veterans, animal rights proponents, union activists and "Raging Grannies" were all visible in the crowd. The war took center stage, but all these other agendas were out there for the supporting or joining. Bright colors were everywhere, punctuated by the "Women in Black" and the men in orange hooded coveralls who were impersonating the prisoners at Guantanamo. Children cavorted with their grandfathers as they marched, and young mothers pushed strollers that mounted protest signs. If there was a consistent theme, it was general repugnance for President Bush and Vice President Cheney: signs advocating their impeachment were omnipresent.

Not surprisingly, few in the crowd looked like me or the people who I live and work with. There was a lot of long hair, but little short hair. Hardly anyone wearing quietly expensive clothing. The rank and file of middle class America and corporate America were absent, even though polling data indicates many support the primary goal of the protest. Yet I was encouraged by the sight of young couples with children who came from DC suburbia to show their support for the cause.

What did this protest accomplish, other than garnering a few inches of attention on page eight? For one thing, in the face of increased government intrusion, it reaffirmed many people's
insistence on exercising their first amendment rights. There they were, society's most "different" people, standing tall near the center of a power they oppose. They made their point, and they were tolerated. America at its best!

And what about me, the veteran who has some sense of what it might feel like to "surge" into a Baghdad filled with a variety of committed enemies with rifles, RPG's and improvised explosives? I feel sad and angry that many of these young soldiers will be dying because George Bush made a series of stupid decisions, the latest of which is the "surge". If by some miracle it should succeed, that's good: Iraq needs to be peaceful. But I feel certain that outside military force cannot bring Iraq to a place where the opposing parties will negotiate a political solution. I dedicated two uncomfortable nights and one day of protesting on behalf of the soldiers who will pay with their lives for an escalation of a war that our country should never have started. \

My back hurts from too many bumps in an uncomfortable and cramped bus seat, but I will heal. I wish the same for the brave Amercans who take bullets and shrapnel for President Bush as they "surge" into Baghdad over the coming weeks and months. But today brought more dead. Will Bush ever be held accountable for his lies and blunders?


Anonymous said...

I wish there had been a few more short-hairs there. This administration is going to dismiss anything said by Hollywood or hippies- people like you are our only hope!

Suspect said...

No beautiful blonde called to me, though.

Ron Davison said...

Your back aches but it is a good ache. It comes from trying to carry the republic on to the next generation. Thank you.

I, too, often feel out of place. I've decided, though, that I'm generally more comfortable with liberals I don't really agree with than with conservatives that I don't really agree with - the disagreeable liberals are generally so much easier to both learn from and talk to than disagreeable conservatives.

Woozie said...

Will Bush ever be held accountable for his lies and blunders?