The 'Students For Change' sponsored a rally today at the EMU on the UofO campus. Notwithstanding chilly December temperatures, there was a good turnout of perhaps a couple hundred people, mostly students. I was remembering back three years ago when I went to some of the UofO peace rallies where there were perhaps a dozen or so students. The increasing numbers is a really good sign. People are waking up!
When I first arrived upon the scene I saw a small cluster of waving american flags. Within the group was a woman holding a sign "Give Peace a Chance" so I thought they were patriotic dissenters. However, upon closer scrutiny I found that they were Pro-Bush, Pro-War, Pro-Republican, Anti-Peace, Anti-Eco, and Anti-Friendly folks. One woman's sign - decorated with a flower - read "Peace through Superior FirePower".
I walked over to their camp and asked a couple of the young men if they were ready to go and fight. They said that they would do their duty if they are called. I asked "why aren't you there now then". They hemmed and hawed until an older man butt in and told me that he already served and then started spewing the same old tiring rhetoric: "get a job", "thank me for your freedom"... When he asked me what I have done for this country, I told him that I do things everyday, adding that I have worked with homeless veterans. He paused for a moment but than came right back at me in a very angry provocative tone. He said that he was all for peace, and also a Christian. He is also very misguided.
It's funny when he told me to get a job (I told him that I had one) I asked him if he had one. He told me that he was retired and that he has made a lot of money in his life. But then later, he said something about losing a job after 9/11. He is likely blaming that on the "terrorists" and wants to wage revenge.
This was a peace rally so I do not want to devote all of my time discussing the few minutes that I spent in conversation with these pro-war folks, but I think that it is important to understand their motives. If we could sit down with some of these people, and talk with them about the real loss of jobs, etc. they may get clued in. The media has done a brilliant job of spinning a web of deception around them. I must say that it does amaze me that college kids could be that ignorant, and gullible. Must be the money.
Opening the rally was a duo, singing anti-war songs, followed by a couple of speakers. A few people were handing out information to the crowd, including a copy of the "Bill of Rights". Bubbles were floating through the air, a sight that I always delight in. But it also seemed symbolic of those folks who are living in a bubble, completely unaware of the truth and where we are heading. There was a table - the front of it graced by a poster size photo of a Gray Wolf - with petitions to protect this magnificent creature. Wolves are being reintroduced into Oregon but there are concerns about their health and safety. Comments about this issue can be emailed to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at ODFW.firstname.lastname@example.org. This weeks Eugene Weekly has a viewpoint on the subject. You can read more about it at: http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2004/12/02/views.html#view1
After the speeches there was a March for Peace. The chants "What do we Want: Peace, When do we Want it: Now?, "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, George W Bush has Got to Go", and War: What is it good for; Absolutely Nothing! reverberated back to where I was in the long winding and growing assemblage of peacemakers. Shopkeepers on 13th Avenue came out to see what the ruckus was about, many of them smiling, peace signing and clapping.
It had been a long time since I marched. As I filled my lungs with cold air and spit back out mantras for peace I realized that this voice, this collective voice of dissent is an important component in our struggle for peace and unity. Many of us question what good rallies and marches are since they do not seem to be changing anything. But they do make a difference, for many reasons. They bring people together, creating community and unity, they provide an outlet for the angst and frustration that we carry inside of us, they help us to know that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings. Protests create camaraderie.
And apparently, they do make a difference. From a recent e-mail that I received "Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada" the number one reason was this: "After the February 2003 antiwar protests, the New York Times described the global peace movement as the world's second superpower. Their actions didn't prevent the war, but protestors in nine countries have succeeded in pressuring their governments to pull their troops from Iraq and/or withdraw from the so-called coalition of the willing. Antiwar Americans owe it to the majority of the people on this planet who agree with them to stay and do what they can to end the suffering in Iraq and prevent future pre-emptive wars."
So, Rally on!