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Monday, February 17, 2003

Peacenik Diary

There may be a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror.

-General William Tecumseh Sherman

I had a really good friend visiting from out of town this past weekend. We had been friends since our days serving in the military together. It seemed only fitting that we would attend Seattle’s anti-war rally this past Saturday in support of our nation’s troops.

My friend is not an obnoxious liberal like I am and didn’t seem particularly opposed to any military action against Iraq before we participated in this historic march, a march that was attended by millions of people like us around the world. I say “people like us” because about the only thing we all had in common was that we were all people. That is not entirely true. Because it was raining earlier in the day everyone at the Seattle rally was wearing a North Face parka. I have never seen so many fucking North Face parkas in one place in my life.

I was afraid that the rain would keep people from turning out, but just as things got underway the rain stopped. Native American writer and activist, Sherman Alexie, gave one of the best speeches I’ve had the good fortune to hear. His message was mostly about education and how ignorance is more dangerous that any weapons we hold in our arsenal or hope to uncover in Iraq. He told a story about how after 9/11 some hick in a pick-up truck with an American flag on the back yelled at him out his window. He said that Sherman should go back to his own country. “It wasn’t so much a hate-crime as it was a crime of irony. He drove away before I could yell back, ‘You first.’” His speech was full of humor and at other times he struggled to choke back his emotion.

Another friend, a Seattle native, joined us and, like Alexie’s speech, we alternated between humor (mostly busting on Seattle clichés in the crowd) and emotion. As I looked around I said to my friend that this was the kind of nation I had in mind to defend when I was a young kid serving in the Untied States Air Force. It would be hard not to be proud of this country and our citizenry. It would be hard not to be proud of ourselves for doing our duty as citizens and voicing our opinions through assembly and free speech.

The march went from the Seattle Center, down 5th avenue, and on to the Federal building. Traffic was at a standstill all over downtown for a good two hours. Most drivers sat on their hoods or honked their horns in support. I always worry about entertaining out of town guests but I’d have to say that a peace rally is a pretty good way to spend a Saturday afternoon and it makes you feel like you really did something.

Although Seattle’s 55,000 marchers comes no where near the hordes that poured out onto the streets of Europe in protest, I think that the people of Seattle got a pretty clear message that a lot of folks are not too happy with the policies of our president. In the words of the ancient Greeks, a man who feels that politics are not his business has no business in this society at all.