Monday, September 26, 2005

Operation CeaseFire

Regular readers of this blog already know that I am a screaming liberal who will reject partisanship only when it is convenient. Also I have a real thing for portraits and handmade signage...hence, the following gallery of photos and observations drawn from this weekend's massive anti-war rally called Operation CeaseFire here in Washington, DC.

If you click here you can see a complete photo set...

We got a late start Saturday morning, driving me right up the wall. As I age, I become more and more like my father and grandmother in that when i want to get going somewhere, I become incorrigibly cranky. We hiked down 16th street, stopping at each bus stop hoping for a ride--nothing came for the longest time. Finally a bus did stop for us, and as it ever packed. Third-world packed. All we needed were a few chickens on the thing, and we could have been in Indonesia no worries. I was asking the driver what the best stop was to get off for the protest when an older woman my mothers' age tapped my shoulder, saying "Baby, every last person on this bus is going the same place. Just follow the crowd..."

Once we got off I hustled past the White House and through the crowd, digging on the way it thickened as we approached the ellipse.

I passed this guy on the way:

This sign, although strongly worded, has tremendous non-partisan appeal. Either side could claim that dude as one of their own.

I passed these girls on the way into the crowd. Something about them was so sweet and so friendly, but man, this photo kind of gives me the creeps:

The crowd was really thick around here, and there were peple with serious camera equipment everywhere. If there's one thing I've learned as a pseudo-gonzo/citizen journalist, it's that you really want to elbow your way into a cluster of people with expensive camera equipment. Just play like you belong -- because you do -- and everything will be fine. This is what I saw at the center of the camera crowd:


These people were at the front line of the protest march, keeping order as a human chain holding back overexcited protesters. I knew something was up, and the next thing I knew, I was less than ten feet from Cindy Sheehan herself:

The energy up there was incredible. It was so warm and electric, and I could feel chilly waves cresting at my scalp and running all the way down my spines, crashing where my feet met the pavement. While me and the crew from CNN, Reuters, Gettty, the Post, etc, were falling over ourselves to get shots like the one you saw above, photographers were calling out "Thank you, Cindy," "Great work Miss Sheehan," and "We're with you all the way." She smiled so big and her eyes got wet as she waved, blew kisses and thanked everyone who spoke to her. I'm getting worked up just thinking about it now, 36 hours after the fact.

All of a sudden the neon orange human dam busted wide open and let the crowd go.

I really get off on going upstream for some reason. I fantasize daily about driving against one-way traffic and I love it when I can do it on my bike...walking against the flow of this march and just feeling the vibes from every peaceful concerned citizen was the sort of thing that I'll be telling my grandkids about. I was one fish moving against a school, moving in between marchers, sign wavers and happy, shouting people.

Here's some of the better signs I saw:





I have a real problem with this sign, though, and the sentiment behind it:


See, my grandparents are die-hard Republicans. My grandma listens to Rush Limbaugh all day long and think he's the news. My dad has a more critical mind, but he's tight with the right too. I come from an incredibly loving, supportive family, and I really hope God doesn't hate them. As an inveterate shit-talker, I certainly understand the desire to put up a provocative, stinging sign like that guy's, but I think that after a point that sort of discourse speaks badly for our team. The goal, as far as I am concerned, is not to be the sort of caricature that the opposing viewpoint can use as an example. Stuff like that sign is sort of like volunteering to climb into the enemy's cannon to be shot at one's own castle.

Here's exhibit B:


THese clowns come out to every protest with the express purpose of antagonizing participants. This hurts both sides. This guy had some pretty sweet quotes that professional writers could not have thought up, though...his dialogue was far too corny for TV, but the fact that he was saying it in real life was HILARIOUS. Here's a direct quote:

"You hippies are weird. You hippies always get into that weird stuff, like homosexuality and your marijuana. What you need to do is stop being weird just to be weird and get right with God!"

Hey, you know what? I can't stand hippies either! My hair is actually shorter than that guy's and I like shooting off guns! I actually do believe in God, too! But I'll tell you what: God gets bummed out on people like that. The only thing that bums God out more than weak (and by weak, I mean almost all) Christian rock bands are religious wackos that make God look like an asshole. I think that the Commandments should be rewritten (and come on, don't tell me that those tablets are real) to say "Thou shalt not make God look like an asshole."

The problem with most people that interpret the Bible as stone-cold literal fact is that they have very little ability to understand subtlety, nuance, or metaphor. So in their little canine brains, behaving like the guy in the photo above and his homeboy throwing out the double-Heil-Hitlers actually is a great ADVERTISEMENT for God. In their little reptile minds it makes perfect sense.

Even more disappointing, however, were the sppoed peaceful liberals who broke off from the crowd just to shout at these losers. They surrounded the religious nutjobs and screamed their point of view at the top of their lungs, as if sheer volume was going to make the nutjobs change their minds. Nobody looks good when they're red in the face and screaming, and it really kinda hurt the team to see fellow protestors engage in behavior that tickled the bad guys. Religious nuts and Protest Warriors are only happy when someone hates them, and the best way to pee in their Kool-Aid is to ignore them.

I had a gutful and climbed a low parapet to watch the crowd. It was so amazing. This march wasn't just hippies and excitable college kids. It was black people, white people, old ladies, former and current military, dads, grandpas, handicapped people--it was EVERYBODY. I feel really thrilled to be able to say that I was right there and ground zero for this thing. Apart from the odd deranged person, who is always in any crowd, this bunch was warm and friendly.

I'd have to say that it was one of the biggest thrills of my life to be a fish in this river made out of America winding through the most powerful city in the world. I can't stand the current administration, but I feel really lucky to live somewhere where all citizens can come togethe and tell the reigning party to fuck off. We stood together, young and old, right in front of the snipers on the White House and chanted for peace and I thought to myself "You know, this country may be going down the tubes, but this is pretty cool. We may not be able to stop this war today, but we're growing in numbers, and we can't be ignored anymore."


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Listmaker said...

"Thou shalt not make God look like an asshole."

best line ever!

At 5:16 PM, Blogger MMHemenway said...

Hi Jeff- nice photos... wish I had been there. Hope you are digging your new gig...maybe we can catch up next time you are home.


At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Meg said...

Jeff! I don't know you! But THANK YOU for being someone else who has a right-wingish family and hates signs like that! I am a die-hard liberal, but I cannot say the same for my parents. They are some of the most lovely people I know, though, and are nothing like the caricatures on some partisan signage. Yay for you!

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Asian Provocateur said...

GREAT post.


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