DON'T STAND ME DOWN FOR NO REASON
As I've written before, I haven't been that political a person in life. It speaks of our times that I've felt compelled to be more active, and really, I am just the sort of person the powers that be should fear, the ones they previously could count on to stay at home and quietly accept. Imagine if we all got mobilized!
Needless to say, I've never attended any real protest or demonstration. Unless you count in 8th grade when we had a walk-out to protest the rule that we couldn't wear shorts to Francis Parkman Junior High. But that was more about not having to be in class for me then it was an urge to fight the power, and though we won, the true reward as far as I was concerned was the girl I had a crush on, Becky Posternak, was interviewed for the 10 o'clock news, giving me a precious 10 seconds of video footage of my beloved. You kids don’t know how easy you have it, what with these MySpace profiles full of downloadable pictures. In the old days, when you were sweet on someone, it was much harder to obtain fetishes for one's shrine.
Last night, MoveOn.org organized candlelight vigils across the United States in support of Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who is camped outside of George W. Bush's vacation ranch because he won't talk to her about the son she lost in Iraq. Sheehan has become a symbolic stand-in for the American people who feel we deserve more answers from an administration that refuses to be straight with us. Naturally, Portland got in on last night's activities. As Janeane Garofalo joked at an appearance here a couple of years ago, when she comes to Portland she expects to find a lot of strong coffee and join a good protest that is pro-hemp and anti-everything else, because that is what we do. Bush's dad, George Herbert Walker Bush, dubbed this city "Little Beirut" for a reason.
In all honesty, I kind of hemmed and hawed about attending the vigil. I had worked all day, I wanted to stay home, etc., but the thing I couldn't get around is that I really had no excuse not to. What was I giving up? An hour or so? I only had to walk a few blocks to get there. It wasn't costing me any money. It seemed more like the least I could do than any great sacrifice.
The event organizers stressed that this was to be a quiet, peaceful meeting. Show up with a candle and prepare to line NW 23rd in all directions, one person deep, see how long we can stretch it out. When I RSVP'd an hour before start time, nearly 700 people had signed up. I think in the end, the chain went at least twelve blocks on both sides of the street. It could have been longer, but I was near the middle and could only rely on the reports of others.
I was actually quite pleased to end up in front of a fancy restaurant with large windows. 23rd is a bit chi-chi, so I had no problem with making people uncomfortable with their dinners. Isn't the point of such a demonstration to push people to think? Like me, what excuse did they really have not to get up and come out to stand in line? It was also fun to see people step out into the street to block parking spaces after cars pulled out, so that no new cars could come in. We were taking over.
A few individuals walked up and down the line, handing out flyers, stickers, and signs, talking about issues and keeping the mood friendly. Lots of drivers coming by honked their horns and flashed peace signs. Surprisingly, we only had one heckler, who showed up at the very tail end as people were starting to disperse. This clever fellow in an SUV called us all hippies and shouted things about soap. Granted, Portland is scary with hippies, but this was a shockingly average looking crowd; ironically, the driver was the strangest looking guy I saw all night. With his shaved head and long beard, he looked like this dude from Queens of the Stone Age:
So, honestly, who was he to talk?
We also joked when planes passed overhead that we were being photographed, but I daresay I figure in this climate those jokes had truth. It wouldn't have surprised me if at least one of the newsmen on the scene, walking the line, wasn't really from any news organization. Nothing is scarier to a corrupt government than people exercising their rights.
After, I had some time to kill before I had to be somewhere else, so I wandered over to the Hollywood Video nearby to browse their previously viewed DVDs. I hadn't realized that they had a whole section devoted to the Criterion Collection, and only did so last night because I was curious about what movie one of the clerks was helping a very cute girl find. It was either an L or an M title, and they couldn't seem to locate it. For a fleeting moment, I considered being a total creep and being all, "Hey, baby, what movie you after? Because I know a place where I guarantee you can go and watch it." In the end, of course, I didn't, but just the mere thought earned me some instant karma. Exiting the shopping complex through the grocery store next door, I stopped to look at the magazines...where I got cruised by a bulbous older gentleman. It never fails!
Current Soundtrack: Bauhaus, Gotham
Current Mood: optimistic
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich