How to Attend a Demonstration for the First Time
When your mother, whose home is plastered with banners proclaiming America: Love It Or Give It Back, and If You Are Not Outraged, You Are Not Paying Attention, invites you to a meeting for something called the Independent Media Center, try to change the subject. After a few weeks, when this tactic has lost its effectiveness, let her drag you to one of the meetings. It will be in a small museum/shop with various hemp-crafted items and a group of people who have come together to discuss coverage of the May Day protest. You don't know anything about the May Day protest, nor have you ever worn shorts made of hemp. You wonder if they would be scratchy. Listen, mildly bored, as they talk about things like permits and radios and cameras. Prick your ears up when one of the women mentions getting you a press pass. This piques your interest. You went to school for creative writing, and you think maybe this will be a good chance for some inspiration. Plus, a press pass just sounds like a cool thing to have.
At this point, you realize that if you want that press pass you're going to have to be a little more informed about the topic. Put your brownie down and ask a few questions about all the abbreviations flying around the room: WTO, IMF, etc. Try not to embarrass yourself. When you think you have the gist of the May Day thing, commit yourself by signing a sheet of paper called the Journalists' Code of Ethics. This feels official. You're beginning to get into this Independent Media thing.
On the day of the protest, arm yourself with the essentials: Cell phone, two-way radio, camera, and a small notebook. Remind yourself not to gawk at the protestors who have gathered in the park with their alternative outfits and bold signs. Try to look professional and businesslike. When the wind blows your press pass backwards, obsessively turn it back around to the side that says PRESS in big red letters. (Okay, so it's a little immature, but hey, this is a novelty for you.)
As the march starts, try to radio your mom. When all you hear back is static, resign yourself to focusing on what you're here for. Take some pictures of the colorful statements people are holding up: Jobs with Justice... Workers' Celebration... Remember Haymarket Chicago 1886...
As you look around, you notice that there are hundreds of people gathered together to proclaim their opinions not only about the May Day protest, but about many other issues. One man holds up a sign that says, "Save Salmon, not Dams." Another sign exclaims "Fair Trade, not Free Trade!" A petite woman clutches a sign reading, "Peaceful Pregnant Protestor (Please don't hurt us!)" Slowly work up the guts to ask a group of girls dressed as a fairies/witches if you can interview them. The one with blue hair tells you that they are the Women's' International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell. They've come to put hexes on certain corporations and institutions that destroy the planet and put greed over the needs of people.
Something will begin to happen to you in the next few minutes. Some kind of vague realization. You are suddenly uncomfortable. Put your notebook in your pocket and try to think of one cause you've fought for. Just one. The prom committee in high school doesn't count. The word "apathetic" will come to mind. Try to push it away. Tell yourself that these people are older. They're more political because that's what you do when you get old. You listen to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and you go to rallies. This is not a very convincing argument, because everywhere you look right now there are kids your age and younger out here in the rain demanding things like fair trade and power to the people, issues you know next to nothing about.
Suddenly you will wish you were the kind of person who reads the paper every day. You will wish you had paid more attention to your mother when she tried to explain about things like police brutality and the FTAA. You will remind yourself that before you start thinking a laminated piece of paper with the word PRESS hanging from your neck makes you a big shot, you need to find out what's happening in the world you live in.