Chicken, you say. No, the friend I marched with, an old camp buddy from Silver Springs, VA, Jean Lyman Lanxner, and her friend, Becky Diass, had paid $50 and $250, respectively, the last time they got arrested. That’s a lot of theater tickets, and, besides, the crowd was so dense that I couldn’t reach the Capitol steps where the police were handcuffing those who walked past the barrier (I believe about 180). It was symbolic, of course, but I did my share of chanting, holding my banner high, proclaiming an end to the war in Iraq and the return of our troops before any more bloodshed. And the impeachment of the president. I also took part in the “die-in,” where you lie down on the pavement in honor of a soldier or an Iraqi civilian who has died in this terrible war.
We started at Lafayette Park in front of the White House and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. The day was sunny and bright (I have a sunburn to prove it). A perfect Fall day. Our numbers were reported to be from 10,000 to 100,000, but I’m afraid it would have had to be much, much more to make any real difference. There were two hours of speeches before the marching began…far too many…but Jean said that you have to suffer a little when protesting. You also have to have a sense of humor! There were very imaginative signs and skits along the way. I may just post a few. Those opposed to the march did a bit of yelling, calling us communists and pacifists and defeatists, but there were lots of policemen present, so nobody started swinging. We left around 6 PM, having started at noon. It was gratifying to see so many people willing to speak up in this time when the government is painting any opposition to their policies as unpatriotic. And it was gratifying to see so many young people present, willing to take a stand against the escalation of the war.
Later I heard reports of some scuffling and of pepper spray being used, but what I experienced was an orderly, at times joyous, and at other times somber march. After Jean and I left we passed more police cars than I’ve ever seen in one place, lined up along the wide lawn leading to the Capitol. We were holding our placards high as a dozen Japanese tourists happened by. Naturally, they all had cameras at the ready and asked if they could photograph us. It was a scream! I can just see them showing their friends these two prehistoric valentines, a symbol of American opposition to the war in Iraq. I suddenly felt like one of those Asians I so cavalierly photograph on my travels. I shall be more sensitive in the future.
Another highlight of the weekend was staying at the charming Tacoma Park home of my friend, Judy Wyman, her husband, John Kelly, and their two children, Leah and Sarah. This was a treat, since they weren’t able to come to the cottage this year for our traditional summer visit.
On Sunday morning I was treated to one of the folk festivals held throughout Tacoma Park, this one sponsored by the Washington Post. Jean’s daughter, Wendy Lanxner, one of seven children, performed an hour of songs composed by her and members of her group, Shosho. The instruments and instrumentation were varied and exciting. She has the same glorious, nuanced voice Jean had as a young woman, when we sang together in summer musicals. I highly recommend her latest CD, Shosho, Days and Years. Wendy plays a number of instruments, among them mandolin, guitar, and flute.
Getting back to New Jersey was a nightmare due to construction on 95 North and my failure to see, in the dark, the turn-off to the NJ turnpike. I just kept bopping along on 95, oblivious to the fact that I was circling Philadelphia and headed for the Jersey shore with an almost empty gas tank. The worst part was wandering around by the ocean until I found the Garden State Parkway (not near the ocean), and driving in five lanes of speeding traffic up the parkway at night. But I did it, and I’m here, and I may just take the train next time. Watch your maps, folks.