(Author’s Note: This is yesterday’s entry, written on the plane from ATL to LAX)
I came through Atlanta this morning, on a plane change with Delta. It could have been O’Hare, it could have been any of the half dozen American airports I’ve bounced through while traveling cross country. I wished I could go outside and step on Georgia soil, but didn’t have time. I want to see the rest of this country, but this is not the time for it.
I was halfway through the concourse before I realized that my “STOP THE NEXT WAR NOW” T-shirt, which I’d worn as a badge of participation in DC, wasn’t quite the thing to wear in Atlanta. No one said anything to me, but no one said they supported the anti-war movement either. I wish there were more reactions in this country. I feel like if people were more reactive then we would be able to display the energy to stop this administration’s most destructive policies, war or otherwise. I would rather have been stopped in Atlanta, hissed at, glared at, cursed, than simply slide through unnoticed. I don’t think everyone can miss a five-ten girl in a Code Pink t-shirt, and I really don’t think that they can ignore the issue that the t-shirt – and that my presence in Atlanta by way of DC represents.
I don’t understand how the war goes unnoticed in America, and that’s why I went to DC this weekend to protest it I went because I wanted to be one more person at a rally and march that needed the bodies to get the attention. I went to scream, “wake up!” I went because I wanted to say to my country, “there are this many of us that believe, with all our hearts and minds, that this is wrong.” And everyone else who votes in this land needs to think about why we’re saying that.
Saturday was an incredible experience. I don’t think I’ve ever been anyplace with that many people all at once. Not that there was when Code Pink showed up, in full force, at 9AM to set up our stage and hand out our pink slips. The ten of us who left from the house in Takoma Park we were staying at all sat on the train together, and sang one of the songs that the girls had written for the march:
Why, why, Mr President, why?
You didn’t fix the levees now the water’s too high
Spendin’ all our cash on a war that’s a lie
You don’t care if poor people die
You don’t care if Iraqis die
You don’t care if our soldiers die
You’re fine so long as your stock is high
We got some approving smiles from the rest of our train car, but it was when we got off the train that I started to see the signs and t-shirts of the other groups protesting. They ranged from the hand scrawled to the neatly painted, from ragged T-shirts to costumes. There was a WWII vet in his uniform. There was a contingent from Ashland, OR. There was a group of teens with signs, “fight plaque, not Iraq”. And that’s when it really hit me. This wasn’t just United for Peace and Justice, this wasn’t just A.N.S.W.E.R., this was everyone who wanted peace. And there were a LOT of them.
The women’s march began with CodePINK at the head of the parade at eleven. But first, we had our speakers take the stage. I was working on setting up a giant pink slip with another girl, listening to Medea Benjamin and Gayle Norton and Jodie Evans, the founders of Code Pink, speak, one after the other. I listened to Cindy Sheehan. And then when Joan Baez got up on stage, I bounded as far forward as I could get and pulled out my cell phone to call home. Because my mother rocked me to sleep to Joan Baez, who played all Mom’s protest marches back in the day as well. For this moment, I was there not only as myself, but for my mom, and everyone who marched with her, who set the example on how to speak out in a system that sometimes doesn’t allow for it.
Margot Kidder was up next to speak, as part of the Montana Gals for Peace. That group got points for having one of the best get-ups of any contingent to start with. They were all older women, late forties, early fifties, all wearing green robes and Statue of Liberty spike crown headdresses. And they each held a slice of a beautifully painted sign, a gorgeous Montana mountain, with MONTANA WOMEN FOR PEACE painted above it. When they stood together, it looked like a painting. And they stood on stage as Lois Lane’s famous gravelly voice rang out across the park.
And soon after, after we practiced a couple new songs and chants, we started marching. Ten thousand women picked up our signs and headed for the Mall. We started singing and chanting, falling in with groups like NOW who were right behind us:
WHAT DO WE WANT
WHEN DO WE WANT IT?
WE NEED ANOTHER LEADA!
GET OUT OF IRAQ
I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK
We yelled and cheered and chanted until we turned the corner at Pennsylvania, between the Washington Monument and the White House. And that’s when we saw everyone else. All I could see, in any direction, was people. I could see a huge ANSWER contingent across the way, closer to the White House. There was a group with a W: MEET WITH CINDY banner up by the Monument itself. And I knew that the media would never tell us that there were this many of us. I could see sixty, seventy thousand people, and that was enough – but I expected it to be pared down to thirty or forty on CNN.
We lined up to march, just like I have a dozen times before in the Oak Bay Tea Party parade. And then we waited. And we chanted while we waited, a chant not too different from what I yelled as a Girl Guide in that parade from my childhood:
WE ARE CODE PINK, WE ARE PROUD!
WE ARE SISTERS, WE ARE LOUD!
WE ARE MANY, WE’LL BE MORE
AND WE’LL END THIS STINKIN’ WAR!
CONDI CONDI CONDI RICE
YOUR POLICIES SUCK BUT YOUR SHOES ARE NICE!
We chanted and carried on and waited. And an hour went by. It was raining a bit. I was bored and tired of standing. And still, we weren’t moving, and couldn’t see who was for all the people around us. It was somewhere around this point though that a huge cheer started coming up from behind us as a group moved forward to start marching. It was the Raging Grannies, signs, costumes and all. We all shrieked in joy. Go Grannies go!
Soon after the Grannies went by word came back. Six hundred thousand people were here. No wonder we couldn’t march – there were too many people. The coordinators had underestimated turnout. It was taking too long to bring in the groups from the sides, and that’s why CodePINK and the groups behind us had been so late to get moving.
Finally, we moved forward a few feet, and stopped. And then a few more. And then, we were marching! And as we rounded the corner, we started seeing the protesters who had climbed the lampposts and the trees and the old guard house to yell and hold up their signs. So we chanted with them:
SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE?
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!
SHOW ME WHAT HYPOCRISY LOOKS LIKE?
THAT IS WHAT HYPOCRISY LOOKS LIKE!
Of course, we pointed at the White House, across the lawn, stoic as always, as we said the last line.
Finally, we started to march around the corners of the parade route. I was carrying one side of the twelve foot CodePINK hot pink “walking slip”, which read FIRE BUSH on it. And as we went down the streets, I looked around and saw that every street was full of protesters. We were simply everywhere, filling the streets. The Post said 100,000, but there’s no way it was only 100,000. We could see more than that on the route, and many more hadn’t even started to march yet by the time I was able to see the rest of the route, filled.
We stopped outside the White House, after taking an hour to walk the few blocks there. We stopped and shook our signs and chanted SHAME SHAME SHAME! And then I found someone else to take over my pink slip, and I took a break to walk the rest of the route on my own with a local guy my own age. I was tired of yelling, and wanted to see the rest of the protesting groups that had been in front of me. So that’s where I found Breasts Not Bombs, in all their quasi-frightening glory, and one girl in full regalia, a Pirate for Peace. That’s where I spotted retirees with their signs. But the parade was thinning after the White House, and it took us twenty minutes to walk the last mile rather than the hour it had taken to walk the first one.
When we got back to the park by the Monument, the free concert was already going on. So I checked in with the girls, and decided to skip out on the show for a bit. There were tens of thousands of protesters on the grass there though, and many more spread out, walking through the streets. But the masses had dissipated, the march was over, and I stayed high on the adrenaline and enthusiasm for hours after that.
I did run into the anti-anti-war protesters, who, spotting my pink slip, informed me that they didn’t care if I was wearing my underwear outside my clothes (jealous fat old cows, actually). They informed me that Medea Benjamin had sent $650,000 to support bomb research in Iraq. Which was actually support for the Iraqi people, but whatever. I stood there, just trying to get them to read my pink slip, which read:
WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER (PEACE CAN BE)
I don’t think they bothered.
The counter-demonstration was just pathetic though. They had perhaps two hundred people. I only saw a hundred, carrying horrible, mean, ill informed signs. Many of them were inaccurate, some just vicious. Cindy Sheehan is as far from a “Nazi witch” as I think you can get. She’s a soft spoken mother with a broken heart. Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK founder, in real life, is a small, quiet woman who is a genius in actions. And none of the counter demonstrators could acknowledge or explain, in their signs, why the hell it was we were still in Iraq. I was told the pink on my slip was blood. If so, the only blood I have on me is for not speaking up sooner, and for letting these misconceptions and lies stay as the dominant influence in the American consciousness.
I would rather people cared enough to come out to argue for the war than not at all.
I would rather get people angry if it means that they notice this giant elephant in our midst, and move to collar it.
I would rather a lot was different.
And that’s what I was thinking as I bounced through Atlanta today. That I would rather people read my T-shirt and remembered – there’s a war out there and they need to be able, as a people, to choose their war in order to live with it. I did not choose this war, I cannot live with it, and I will continue to fight it until the last troop is home.