The skies were sunny on Saturday September 15, 2007 as thousands gathered in the nation’s capitol to peacefully protest the war in Iraq. Peace, or anti-war demonstrations, are by nature peaceful; satire the weapon of choice and words the bullets to pierce ideology and reinforce our beliefs.
I’ve attended a number of these rallies since this war began. At my age, I am weary of “having to do this again”. My partner and I and friends dutifully arise at 5:00 am, drive 5 hours to Washington, endure endless hours of standing and cheering, walking in the sun, rain or cold, taking pictures, driving 5 more hours home, where we fall into a comfortable bed and await the news that our actions have somehow worked a miracle. I know by now that miracles are fiction and that it takes more that just showing up at a demonstration. I put together a short video of my photos that express how I felt about the day and posted with a number of other folks on YouTube. It’s great to watch the videos that captured the moments of the day from a variety of perspectives. You won’t get this kind of news reporting on your regular TV channels.
Saturday’s gathering had the tension of a rising level of frustration that I hadn’t noticed in previous rallies. Outrage, anger and frustration at our government lack of action to stop this war were apparent by the 197 arrests. I watched tense police stand eyeing the crowd as they endured the crowd’s increasing chants and taunts. The police called for reinforcements and issued shields as they sensed the anger and frustration of the crowd escalating. People began to cross the barricades to be arrested. They were cheered by the crowds and then quickly tossed to the ground, cuffed and removed to jail by the police. I watched the faces of a younger generation contorted in anger and frustration as they shook their fists and screamed at the police who are a symbol of their government. “Who do you protect!” they chanted.
As I watched older women and men standing and being arrested with today’s youth, I realized that this nation was going down that same familiar road we paved in the sixties. Many more of us will needlessly suffer at the hands of our government. More destruction of the fabric of our society will follow. More division will eventually splinter the country and we will roll dangerously close to losing that thing that every citizen cherishes, democracy. One t-shirt slogan captured the idea precisely. “Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam”.
Everyday we hear the same thing from the Democrats in Congress; “We don’t have the 'votes' to override a veto”. The information is apparently quietly acquired by private polling as opposed to a public vote.
The women and men, who climbed over the barricades knowing they would be arrested, didn’t stop to count votes and they knew that their actions wouldn’t result in the miracle of stopping this war and the killing. They didn’t meet behind a “closed door” and take an action based on a calculation that they would achieve their objective. They knew that they stood for something, and finally, they stood up for that something by committing an act of defiance against the government. They refused to “obey the government” and committed an act of civil disobedience that resulted in arrest, jail and a criminal record, not a miracle.
Are those individuals we elected to govern us, capable of being as brave or as patriotic as those enraged desperate women and men who crossed the line and rebuked the government in the only way left to them? If our elected officials do just the minimum amount of work entailed in their jobs, they will put the bill to end funding the war to a vote on the record. They will allow a transparency in the government that lets the public see the voting. That really doesn’t require courage; it’s really about doing their jobs and doing what’s right. Our country has evolved into a “Shadow Government” composed of our own elected officials who are afraid to govern. They are afraid to stand up and represent the will of the people who want the killing in our name to end.
It’s time for our Congress to show us what democracy looks like!