“Oh my God, there are so many cute radicals here.”Three girls, decked out in alluringly tight jeans, army-style drab jackets and calf-hugging boots agreed wholeheartedly with the girl who said this, the fourth and final one in the group and the only one who didn’t have short, black hair.
Nothing I heard over the course of my nearly eight-hour stay in D.C. for the March on Washington peace rally summed up the day better.
The group of girls was one of many tight-knit little collectives which rambled around the Mall throughout the course of the day, yelling out slogans for the impeachment of Bush and carrying signs with equally quotable slogans before congregating in a huge, roaring mass as they got closer to the Capitol building.
Except that the mass didn’t roar. The speakers they had (ranging from a rabbi to a hip-hop group to Tim Robbins) were all adamant about their messages for peace, some visibly moved or upset during their moment on the podium, to scattered cheers and applause.
The majority of the crowd, though, stood and watched. There were a few people who walked around with megaphones, trying their best to get the crowd riled up. Looking at the faces of many of the people there, I couldn’t help but notice that most people were simply content.
Through all my interviews and buzzing around taking photos I couldn’t shake the feeling that people were simply there because it was Saturday and, really, what else was there to do?
There were no overtly radical speeches, no violent flare-ups, no one saying anything different than the same stuff people have been saying for years on talk shows, Web sites and political debates and the biggest message seemed to be that Congress was watching and heard the message loud and clear. Apparently they work on Saturdays now.
What happened to the days when peace marches meant something? And why stage one when Congress is already pushing for an end to the war. If the President doesn’t listen to Congress, he won’t listen to the public (and hasn’t for years now). Protestors are either preaching to the choir or yelling at a wall. Peace comes from a constant struggle for change and the vast majority of people at this march were Weekend Peaceniks, not warriors in some universal fight for peace. I have no doubt as to the sincerity of many of the people I talked to but there were just as many who seemed to be following others around and saying things they thought they were expected to say.
People have already said the peace movement in this country is dead and the march did prove them wrong. It says something that so many people gathered together for one cause. But we need someone with an original message. After the first few speakers took the stage, loops of the best parts of their speeches could have been played and it wouldn’t have sounded much different than what the rest of the days speakers had to say. “Impeach Bush”, “This war is a travesty”, and “The soldiers need to come home” are all immensely obvious things to say and it’s the same things I hear when walking through the halls of Castleton.
Anything that a college student can come up with is not what should be blasting from the speakers as the heads of the anti-war movement address a crowd.
The rally organizers will undoubtedly call the march a success, considering the huge amount of people who showed up, but it was no victory. In the morning the politicians still do what they want, no important people who could actually change a single thing about the war showed up to speak or march and Tim Robbins is still just an actor. A peace rally is not a success until it brings about peace.
The peace movement needs an original group of outspoken individuals, people who have the power to actually change things and make a difference. We need solutions, not slogans and pointless banter from actors and Jesse Jackson.
Maybe then more people will go to these things looking for peace instead of a hot night out with a cute boy in a bandanna.