Sunday, March 30, 2003

One Peaceful Saturday

I have been fairly studiously avoiding anti-war activism. Peace issues are not my forte; challenging corporate power is. While the two are often connected, my time is limited. Since I'm serious about having a life outside of my political vocation, I just don't do peace events as a rule.

I honor this rule as I honor most rules: in the breach. Church is a key part of my life outside work. It's through my church - the Arlington Street Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Boston - that I'm dragged into anti-war events.

I nearly did not attend this Saturday's peace rally on Boston Common. However, my minister and many from my congregation decided to meet at the church (conveniently located at the corner of the Boston Gardens) and join the rally as a group with banners. I just couldn't resist coming along.

I was very glad I came. The rally was a truly joyful expression of opinion against the war in Iraq. I missed the speakers and instead wandered around greeting fellow activists, old friends, and any strange, slobbery dog. Soon I was on the march and helping by handing out leaflets.

The march was when my joy kicked in. There's something wonderfully surreal about marching down city streets at an event like this. I loved the giant puppets and the clever banners. It's also affirming to be surrounded by thousands of people who are peacefully expressing similar views. Walking down Beacon Street, I just felt the joy welling up in me into a permanent grin and laugh.

Here's a picture of where I was marching. My friend, Angela, is carrying the "What Would Jesus Bomb?" banner. The guy almost obscuring the banner with his head is another friend, Dan. I probably just missed being included in the shot because I was handing out a leaflet to a bystander. Oh, well.

The few counter demonstrators were notable for their ineffectiveness. A group of them gathered where Arlington Street meets Boylston Street and shouted lame epithets like "shave your pits!" at the women peace marchers. Almost all of them were young white men under 30. They looked and behaved like a bunch of dim, ill-mannered frat boys. (As a Buffy fan, I yearned to sic Anyanka on them.) Meanwhile, the trusty bell-ringers at Arlington Street Church rang out "La Marseillaise" and "Frere Jacques."

(After a lifetime and a thousand years of hatred, it's so strange for me, as a British subject, to start to like the French.)

The marchers wound back into Boston Common as if it were a celebration. With no draft and few casualties, this war has touched few Americans' lives deeply. The battles in faraway Iraq are like a video game we all experience solely through our TV screens. So far that's taken the heat out of the protests and the debate in the United States. If the body bags return in the thousands or terrorists hit a target in America, it will become very ugly here and very fast.

Soundtrack: Blur "Leisure," Oasis "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?"


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