I trotted my ample butt to a peace rally yesterday. A peace rally in Minnesota, the former heart of blueness. You know – the only state that went for the utterly capable Walter Mondale over Ronald “Bedtime for Bonzo” Reagan.
The fantasy: As you might expect in Minnesota, there were thousands of people at the rally. Police directed traffic at all the nearby intersections. The grassy commons spreading out from the Capitol steps toward the Cathedral on the hill was packed clear to the street and beyond. Hundreds of signs rose high in the hands of orderly but visibly fed-up individuals.
The governor was there. Our congressional reps and senators were there. Clergy from every denomination. Young people – children, high schoolers, college students in vast numbers. The energy was palpable. Lots of music. Current stuff that I don’t know, but it was perfect for the day. We had gathered to say, “Enough! No more occupation! Bring our people home alive and whole!” You probably read about the rally on the front page of the Star Tribune today. Above the fold.
Okay. Enough. Read what really happened.
Just so you know? Almost all of what you just read was pure fabrication.
I did go to the rally. That much is true. David and friend Margaret came, too. So we were three among the few hundred who bothered to show up. Susan was there somewhere, too, and maybe she had a more positive view of the rally than I do.
For starters, it seems the rally planners didn’t pay much attention to pro football schedules. Even that of our local boys who rarely show up for their own games. And now that Minnesotans can subscribe to a cable station that enables viewing of something like 14 games every day, well, world peace is up against some stiff competition.
Being somewhat anal about punctuality, we got there early. Didn’t want to miss a minute of it. And then we just kinda stood around, conspicuously suburban in a largely metro group. Our gray hair was the only common ground. Not many young people in the group.
It never achieved the status of crowd, really. A few hundred. That's what the Strib said, being generous. And they did a nice article, inside the B section, likely led to cover the event by the media-savvy organizations that put it together. Good work.
There was the requisite guitar player who tried valiantly to woo us into singing along with some retro tunes. Since I didn’t do protests at an age-appropriate time of my life, I don’t know those songs well enough to join in.
There were speakers. Becky Lourey is always a powerful spokesperson for peace. She’s earned her stripes, both as a former state senator and as a mother whose son perished in Iraq. She’s a petite powerhouse. There were other speakers as well. Passionate voices of people who’ve served in Iraq or whose kin are there now. Thread through all of it: Bring them home now. Voices cracking with emotion.
There were local glitterati in the group. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Al Franken. Steve Kelley (who absolutely should be governor of Minnesota right this very minute but sustained a Hatch-et job). Others whose names I can’t remember or never heard and at the moment, don't much care about. It was very hot and windy, and the sound system didn’t always allow for hearing what the speakers were saying.
When the last speaker finished, we left. It had been a sobering event, reminiscent of a long-ago time. Very retro. But more sobering than content was the surfeit of citizens. Where was everyone?
Full disclosure: I was MIA in the 60s when many of my peers were actively protesting the Vietnam War. My peacemaking endeavors were limited to working with my nice church-colleagues in the 70s, doing a little writing and staffing booths at non-profit gatherings.
That said, I say again, “Where was everyone?”
I am flummoxed by the level of apparent apathy amongst Dems, liberals, progressives, whatever the heck we’re calling ourselves these days.
We say we are outraged. We say we’ve had enough. Here was an opportunity to illustrate that in a very public way. Where was everyone? Far as I know, the Bush Republicans didn’t even bother to show up for a counter-rally.
Our elected officials are apparently impotent. We elected them with some high expectations that they’d move us toward getting out of the hell-hole that is Iraq. That they’d guide this nation away from wars, not into more of them. Wars that enrich the Blackwaters and Halliburtons and Bushes and Cheneys and other BushCo cronies while impoverishing the United States treasury and slaughtering our soldiers. Oh, and a few hundred thousand Iraqis as well, but that’s just collateral damage.
Where was everyone? Why are we not speaking out together, demanding to be heard? Why are people huddled in air-conditioned houses, watching NASCAR races or the pathetic Vikings when they could be gathering together to demand that we be heard?
Is it apathy or hopelessness? Either way, we’re screwed. Because until We, the People show up and speak out, nothing will change.
I should have left that rally buoyed up by the collective voices. I needed that. We all did. And while I can’t speak for the others, I can say that my own sense of hopelessness ramped up another notch. Does anyone really give a damn? I wonder. I really do.
What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authority. ~ Molly Ivins
(H/T LeftyMN for quote)