Marching in Washington




I

n
January, I attended a rally in Washington DC against the war on
Iraq, one of many rallies held throughout the world. Some in the
media billed the attendance in DC at “tens of the thousands”
while organizers estimated half a million. In any case, as the


Washington
Post

put it, this was the largest rally for peace in the nation’s
capital since the Vietnam-era protests. But numbers are only a small
part of the picture; the diversity and dynamism of this event were
life- changing experiences.


There
were Koreans in traditional colorful dresses drumming and singing
“US out of the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.”
There were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists,
and many of other faiths. Secular Jews Against the Occupation were
seen next to anti-Zionist Orthodox Rabbis (who had to walk to get
to the rally because of the Sabbath). There were anarchists and
communists mixing and exchanging greetings with mosque and church
groups. There were business people, trade unionists, actors, musicians,
professors, and students from hundreds of campuses. There were American
and Palestinian flags waving along with other creative flags: the
earth, peace signs, and many more. There were signs with slogans
like:


  • WHAT WOULD JESUS
    DO?

  • MONEY FOR JOBS
    NOT WAR

  • WAR HEADS: BUSH,
    CHENEY, RUMSFELD

  • AXIS OF EVIL:
    BUSH, BLAIR,

    SHARON


  • THINK PEACE

  • DUMP BUSH NOT
    BOMBS

  • STOP THE GENOCIDE/END
    THE

    SANCTIONS


  • ANOTHER VETERAN
    FOR PEACE

  • END RACIAL PROFILING

  • NO BLOOD FOR
    OIL


There
were thousands of signs to End Israeli Apartheid, Free Palestine,
End Aid to Israel. There were signs about Martin Luther King, Jr.
and the legacy of non-violence for civil and human rights.


In
the freezing weather people shared food, clothes, business cards,
and networked. They shared their visions and their hopes for a better
future based on confronting the facts about the past. There were
Native Americans drawing a parallel of their genocide with that
of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children killed by the U.S./UK-led
sanctions on Iraq. There were African Americans and other supporters
of reparations for slavery.


There
were family and friends of the victims of 9/11 who had signs calling
for peace and speaking out against the racism inherent in new laws
and capabilities given to the federal government.


One
chant I heard was: “This is what democracy looks like, Bush
is what hypocrisy looks like.” There was a sign that read:
“The whole thing is so absurd, I could not think of something
to write on this sign.”


Indeed
it is so absurd that while our economy is in the worst situation
since 1974, we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year
on a military budget. It is absurd that we ignore 200,000 Veterans
documented with Gulf War syndrome (8,000 have died in the last 10
years from these illnesses). It is absurd that the U.S. plans to
waste $200 billion more this year in attacking Iraq, a defeated
country, which lost over 1.5 million civilians due to our blockade
(a true weapon of mass destruction).


Can
our actions make a difference? Obviously hundreds of thousands of
people braving the weather and freely spending their money and time
on this clearly believe so. Skeptics need only remember cases in
our history where people led the way and governments finally relented:
abolition of slavery, pulling our troops from Vietnam, civil rights,
the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, among others. This is what
democracy looks like.