Several weeks ago I posted here about my reactions to the antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C. I called it Good Demonstration, Bad Show. It was based upon watching people on TV scream into microphones at the podium before thousands in the live audience...and how that made for bad TV. And how that presented a good point of view badly.
Yesterday, I participated in a similar demonstration in Portland, Oregon. An estimated 10,000-15,000 people marched through the downtown, filling around 20 city blocks with a single purpose, demanding an end to the war. There were other issues and other groups involved including a bunch of those cute anarchist kids who caused a ruckus and got themselves arrested.
Early on, I sought them out because I figured they're would be the only ones who presented any danger (read: entertainment) in an otherwise polite spectrum of lefties of all stripes. They carried a sign which read, "No Gods, No Country, No Masters," (without the commas). As they marched they chanted, no jeered, at bystanders, "While you're shopping, bombs are dropping."
They appeared to be 16-20 years old. They appeared feel they had nothing to lose and were bent on venting their anger. I felt like they were my army. Then I thought, "All armies are always made up of people this age." I must admit it felt empowering to consider that they were fighting in my name. Then I thought, "Does that make me any different from anyone else who has an army?"
That thought didn't stop me from enjoying their enthusiasm. During the Vietnam protest era, I was having a beer with some guy who was around my (draft) age. He looked at me very seriously and said, "You're into trashing aren't you?" (Note: "trashing" meant busting up things in the name of "revolution," a word that was tossed around a lot back then.) I said, "Uhhh. Ummm. Well, I'm kind of non-violent but I can see your point."
When they caused the dust-up, they spray-painted the backs of several members of the media. I thought, "Good point."
Nevertheless, as far as staging one of these mass demonstrations, it's still a bad idea to let one person after another drone on and on from a stage, through a sound system that about 25% of the crowd can hear while the rest of the folks hang out till it's time to march. It's mostly preaching to the choir anyway, and let's face it, it gets boring, no matter how heartfelt the preacher.
Oh, and one more thing. Could we have about 80% fewer folk singers?
Thankfully, and probably because it's Portland and the West Coast, there was a Burning Man feel to some of the festivities. We need that. If you don't know what Burning Man is, you're part of the problem.
There were a lot of clever signs. Take note in case we need more demontrations in your town:
"The Rapture Is Not An Exit Strategy"
"You're Certainly Too Stupid to Be the Antichrist...But You're Evil Enough," including a picture of Bush with horns.
"Some folks say we're Bush Bashing. In Oregon we call it THINKING."
"War Is Terrorism with a Bigger Budget."
"Empty Warhead Found In White House."
"W Is the New Swastika."
And one that said simply, "Enough."
What's good is being in a crowd of ten thousand people who think more-or-less like you do. It's inspiring. It was inspiring. Inspiring because folks like us have helped turn the tide. The problem is, of course, that in the face of overwhelming public disapproval of the war, the White House sends more and more troops. At the same time we chafe at the pace of Congressional action.
The point is to end the war, after all. Point made yesterday, anarchists and all.