Yesterday evening - beautiful crystal blue early spring evening with rising almost full moon, Bob, Ruth, Chris and I gathered on the Texas Capital grounds with about 300 other people to hold vigil for all those (not just Americans) who have lost their lives in Iraq during these last five years. There's so much I can say about the event - so many different impressions. First (and for anybody who doesn't have time or desire for details this morning) , my general feeling is that I'm glad we were there - both "we" in the sense of the whole group and "we" in the sense of we four from our family.
The crowd was mixed in age - almost all white though. That makes me a little sad, especially when I think of the racial composition of the military. Our age group was probably over represented, and that makes me a le sad too. But then I remember that the people between us and the college students in age were probably busy doing homework with their kids (or taking them to dance class as Joanna was), putting them to bed, tired, just off work - but I still wish more had been there. There were several young families it was a pleasure to watch. Looking at the older people, I wondered how many have been at other protests over the years, especially wondered who was at the big demonstration and march after the murders at Kent State (my first big demonstration). Part of me wants to start an interview process, maybe locally, maybe starting with the PW group, about the history of protest in the life of our generation - but that's another post.
Move On did a good job with the organizing this time. I found it interesting that the woman who was the main spokesperson described herself as "a mortgage broker and Iranian American". I liked the signs Move On handed out - a variety in red white and blue on the theme of what we as a nation should be investing in instead of this war. "Invest in Health Care, Not War in Iraq", "Invest in Education, Not War in Iraq" "Invest in Clean energy, Not War in Iraq" "Invest in Real Security, Not War in Iraq.". There were also a number of creative home made signs. My favorites were the white doves. A number of people had American Flags. The Empty Shoes project was present - and that always touches me - seeing the actual empty shoes left behind by people who died in the war. This time I particularly noticed that there were women's shoes too. I wore mourner's black, as I traditionally do to vigils, as did a number of other people - but not half the crowd.
The only chant we engaged in, and this was brief, was one I liked - a call and response "What does democracy look like. THIS is what democracy looks like." I wanted singing, but we didn't have any organized singing. At the end, after the group started breaking up, a man, probably in his sixties, started singing "Where have all the Flowers Gone?" and a few people joined him. I'm glad he added the music. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that many of the young people fighting and dying in Iraq were sung to sleep with "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?"
There were speeches before the candles were lit , but appropriate this time, I think. Ruth commented that there was too much political speech for a vigil, but I didn't feel this strongly like I did last time. One speaker suggested our best first step to peace was voting for OBama, and this rubbed me wrong until I realized it was a Move On sponsored event and Move On has endorsed OBama. It would still have bothered me, at a vigil, if he had gone on and on, but he just made the one reference. I was most touched by the speech of a woman who talked of the loss of her marriage as she had known it due to personality changes her husband suffered from the trauma of the war.
The vigil was highly visible from busy streets, and I was pleased that, unlike at other protests we have attended, the responses of passers by were almost completely positive. One guy yelled "Vote Republican!" but that's a pretty weak cat call. I was especially pleased that a number of bus drivers honked and that they and bus riders flashed us the peace sign, as did a number of people in private cars.
It was good sitting on a stone wall above a bed of pansies next to my sweet husband, holding candles in paper cups high, mostly keeping silence. I'm very glad we went.