November 4, 2002
On Saturday, October 26, I was in Washington, DC at the war
protest rally. I spent five hours driving each way, and seven hours
milling around with the crowd and marching. Not being used to spending
that much time on my feet, every muscle and joint in my body ached, and I
could swear I grew new body parts just for the extra pain.
If you heard about this protest, it was likely a short clip from CNN or the short AP story run by the few media that bothered to run it at all. After all, it was to be just one of the thousands of protests and demonstrations every year in Washington, so why bother giving it space?
I am under no illusion that anyone within the infamous Beltway was influenced by this protest. They did their best to ignore it, and most were out of town. Our meager pleading for peace and decency was drowned by the voices that are closest to the to the ears of the powers of government.
So, why did I bother to go? And why do I feel so good about going?
This became the largest anti-war rally since Vietnam. The attendance far exceeded what the organizers or the DC police expected, and the best estimate is that around 150,000 showed up.
There were professional protesters and first timers, aging hippies and business school students, accountants and plumbers, clergy and atheists. There were some dancing and some with wheelchairs or crutches. A dozen languages and that many skin colors. From across the country busses were chartered, Metroliners were filled, and the highways were crowded. Tourists who came to climb the Washington Monument saw the march and joined. It was America who marched that day.
These rallies and protests cannot in themselves change the government, but they have a necessary place in that change. There were other rallies in San Francisco and even Augusta, Maine. A hundred thousand rallied around the world in Rome, Frankfurt, Copenhagen... A quarter million Americans joined in a day of outrage against the war machine. A quarter million Americans spoke for the millions who doubt the wisdom of war.
What we did was not defeat the Cheney's and Wolfowitz's. We can't do that with marching alone. What we did was affirm that our message has merit. We gained the confidence that we can continue the struggle and have the support of much of the country. We have a common message for our families, our neighborhoods, our organizations, our churches and temples. We have a message that we know will be heard across the country.
A seed was planted on Saturday, and that seed must be watered and watched, but it will bear fruit.
· · · · · ·
William Funke is a former insurance manager who now works part-time to subsidize his real interests in life: writing, photography and woodworking. A trained economist, he lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
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