Saturday, February 15, 2003

Honk if You Want Peace

I didn't march yesterday. I told myself I was too tired. It was a very long week at work. I was cooped up in a room with a plaintiff who was reviewing hundreds of boxes of our clients files looking for evidence of unfair business practices. That meant I had to haul boxes in every morning and haul them out every night and lug them around the room whenever she selected one to review. Naturally the ones she wanted were always on the bottom of a stack of five. Anyway, I still don't have all of my energy back and all that exercise was really wiping me out. So I wasn't up for a three hour peace march.

I've been getting a lot of emails asking me to sign petitions or write to congressmen or call the White House or join a movement or make a donation. I get most of them from my Dad, who in addition to being an internet freak is also the family peace activist. I haven't really followed up on any of them. I haven't even read a lot of them. About the most I've done to support the peace movement is to honk my horn each night on my way home from work when I pass a group of protesters holding signs that say "Honk if You Want Peace!" They seem to appreciate it.

It's not that I don't care if we go to war. I guess I'm hoping that if I ignore President Bush long enough he'll eventually go away. Instead of actively supporting peace, I'm being passive aggressive towards war. I didn't used to be so lame. There was a time when I marched and chanted and protested right up there with the best of them.

In '78 I was at Kent State protesting the construction of a gymnasium on the site of the murder of four students by the National Guard during an anti-Vietnam demonstration eight years earlier. Former SDS founder Mark Rudd was there exhorting us to action in a voice hoarse from passion and urgency. (He's the guy Trudeau based "Megaphone Mike" on in Doonesberry.) They played "Ohio" by CSNY over the loudspeakers and we swarmed the construction site, tearing down the fence and occupying the area for several hours while the FBI took our pictures. Mark and several of the more prominent radicals wore bandanas over their faces to conceal their identities. It was pretty cool.

There were some other memorable events from those days: the antiapartheid sit-in in college, the march to save the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the Vietnam War debate at our church when I was twelve... Yep, I used to be the real deal. What happened?

One thing that struck me when I saw the news footage of the protests yesterday was that most of the faces I saw looked like mine. I didn't notice a lot of twenty-year-olds out there. I always thought idealism was a disease of the young. But it was nice to see all the old farts getting out to march after all these years. I think that's what made me have this weird dream I had last night:

I was at a big Grateful Dead concert, like at the Meadowlands, and then I was playing drums with Val Kilmer -- we were the drummers for the Dead apparently and we were in the middle of the drum solo. We had broken the rhythm down to almost nothing, they way they do, and were beginning to build it back up. I started playing on a hollow wooden clave, tapping out a simple "one-two-three-four-one-and-two-and-three-and-four." The crowd picked up on it and started chanting "One, two, three, four -- We don't want your fucking war!" Just a few in the front at first but soon it spread through the whole arena. "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR -- WE DON'T WANT YOU'RE FUCKING WAR!" I started shouting "HELL NO, WE WON'T GO!" and some folks picked up on that too and it turned into a real humdinger. The whole place was thundering with the rhythm and the chanting and it got so intense I woke up feeling charged with energy and enthusiasm.

I guess that spirit hasn't completely died out. In fact it seems to be lurking in the shadows just looking for an excuse to come back into the sunlight. Maybe next time there's a peace march, I'll drop by and see if anyone wants to join in on any of the old chants. Teach the kids a thing or two. Or at least, I may start following up on my Dad's emails. So don't be surprised if you start getting petitions and requests for donations. Just trying to stay active.


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