Saturday, September 24, 2005

March on Washington 2005

The old lefties were out in force, of course, along with the peaceniks and the Palestinian sympathizers and the professional rabble rousers sporting crimson Che Guevara T-shirts. But there were also thousands of soccer moms and well-scrubbed college students and earnest young married couples carting the kiddies. There were hundreds of scantily clad teen girls with "make love not war" emblazoned in magic marker on their backs. But also a doe-eyed young woman with a "wholesome Midwestern girl" T-shirt.

The Ellipse area south of the White House is a gigantic open area, a place whose broad dimensions are a testament to designer Pierre L'Enfant's visionary sense that a reclaimed swampland would one day serve as a front porch for a massive continental empire. In my 20s, I used to play weekly softball on these very grounds. In the outfield, you'd crouch awaiting the ball, with the White House in the middle distance in front of you, and as you turned to go back on a long hit, the Washington Monument would be over your shoulder. Wheel to throw the ball back into the infield, and you'd get a quick glimpse of the Lincoln Monument. Sometimes it was hard to keep one's attention on the game. Even after several years, I never got blase about the surroundings. It was always special.

Today, that ellipse was crammed with Americans who came together with Cindy Sheehan and Jesse Jackson to take the anti-war message to Bush, from a distance he couldn't miss. Around noon, they massed into a mile-long ribbon for a slow march to the White House. I was set to head down to Crawford, Texas a month ago, even had my Amtrak tickets reserved. I was curious about this mother of the dead soldier who had finally managed to touch a chord and coalesce the anti-war movement, so I wanted to see for myself the spectacle that had gathered around her. But then she had to head back to the west coast to tend to her sick mom. So instead I headed to Washington for today's culminating march--half as observer and half as participant, I suppose. I was lucky enough to be accompanied by an old writing comrade who lives in D.C., Bill, a veteran of more than his share of political protests and marches.

It helps to be tall and to have sharp elbows in these situations. Much of the time I was able to work my way up to the front of the action, and take some pictures from point blank range. I'll post some more of those photos later.


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