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Monday, January 29, 2007

Peace March

For those of you who missed the ten seconds of television coverage that Saturday’s national peace march in Washington received, or for those who read the New York Times version, I’d like to give my own account. For starters, I wouldn’t say there were “tens of thousands” of marchers, as the papers reported. There were hundreds of thousands—300,000 according to the organizers. I have no idea how they figure that out, but I do know that 11 buses came just from our end of Philadelphia, 3 from our Quaker meeting alone. (For the 2000 Million Mom March, our meeting only sent 1 bus.) It was clear that we were not just turning out the usual crowd, as most of the recent peace marches have. This time there was a sense that the moment mattered, and ordinary people came: parents and children, grandparents who marched for civil rights and young veterans of the Iraq war, military families as well as your usual array of left-wing groups. It was a great event, well worth the hours on the bus.

The most memorable part for me was a piece of street theatre by a group called There were three women standing stone still, each with her right hand over her heart, gripping a piece of red ribbon. The first was dressed in a business suite with pearls and dust on her shoulders. It took us a few minutes to realized she represented 9/11 victims. The second was wearing a military uniform, and the third was dressed as an Iraqi woman. A container of cards showed that 1 inch of ribbon represented 12 casualties. The 9/11 woman’s ribbon draped from her heart to the ground and extended out a few feet. The soldier’s ribbon extended a little further. The Iraqi woman, however, didn’t hold a simple inch-thick ribbon. She held a cloth at least a yard wide that draped so far in front of her and the other ribbons that we couldn’t see its end under the feet of the onlookers. At some point, my friend realized the women were triplets: exactly the same, except for their clothes, the size of their ribbons, and the casualty numbers written across their foreheads. It was very moving.

The only disappointing thing about the day was the minimal media coverage. In Philadelphia Prince Charles’ visit dominated the news. There was only a quick flash on the local news that didn’t give a true picture of the size of the march and didn’t mention how many people had gone from Philadelphia. And we wonder why ordinary people don’t believe that what they do matters? But it does matter. Three women stood still with their hands over their hearts, and I’m quite sure they touched many other hearts with their quiet witness.


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