I was going through some of the older things that I wrote, and I ran across this, the first thing that I ever wrote for my favorite website, My Left Wing. It didn’t have any pictures, and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but I still consider it to be the best thing that I have ever written. That’s why I’m republishing it, unedited from it’s original form, here. (Originally published Sunday, March 18, 2007)
I know people have already written about the protest in DC yesterday, But I really wanted to share my experience, and mostly, the people that I met there. So if you all don’t mind a little self-indulgence, and plenty of praise for what I perceive as the new hippies, then read on!I arrived at my friend Megan’s dorm at GMU around 2:30 am on saturday. I left late, I had stuff to do on Friday, yadayadayada, anyone else would have thought it rude to show up so late, but not to the three people in that room.
They weren’t actually sleeping, amazingly. They had been up making small wooden crosses out of popsickle sticks that they would paint black later. There were about 500 crosses in the room, and I was informed that others were also doing the same thing to create 3200+ crosses, one for every soldier killed in Iraq. The plan is to plant the crosses in one of the big lawns on GMU on wednesday i believe, part of the week long of activism that SDS is doing for the anniversary of the war.That’s the next thing: Megan, and her roommates Nada and Erin (Erin wasn’t there when I arrived, I met her later) are members of Students for a Democratic Society, SDS for short. SDS was big in the late 60s/70s organizing students around political causes, namely the Vietnam war. They disbanded nationally after the controversial weathermen became violent. They’ve reformed now as the peace-promoting SDS in response to today’s idiot war, although they of course focus on multiple issues as they threaten democracy. As a side note, Megan has been bugging me to start an SDS chapter here at Christopher Newport for some time, and the pressure was particularly heavy as every SDS member i met there asked if I would start one. I’m running out of synonyms for lazy.
Anyway, I learned that night talking in the room that SDS is devoted to making activists out of all of its members, as was perfect for these girls. Most of their free time is devoted to helping others. This left a huge impression on me. In addition to their crosses, GMU’s SDS chapter has fought for fair trade by demanding that the GMU bookstore start carrying fair trade clothes. megan and Nada specifically organized two teach-ins, one coming up this week bringing in professors and experts to talk about Iraq, and they spread awareness about things like animal cruelty and global warming.
The other side of the impressiveness was the personal aspect; everyone i met that night and several people i met the next day seemed to be very careful about what they consumed, and if there was a better, less wasteful way. If it rains, they shower in the rain to save water. There are several vegetarians, one vegan, and one freegan, and the non-freegans usually don’t eat outside of the semi-socialist school cafeteria with its meal card system. This is hard to bring to you in words, but all in all I’m trying to say that my friends live an attempt to always be compassionate and concerned for the well-being of others.
A few words about the freegan I met: MIke. Mike had transfered to GMU from James Madison at the beginning of the semester, and was dropping out to begin squatting across the country. His parents have stopped talking to him completely, and don’t want to until he gets over this freegan ‘nonsense.’ He was very hurt by this, but unwilling to compromise on his convictions for anything; including his parents. He lives on almost no money, dumpster diving for food, and as i already mentioned, will be squatting once he leaves the university. the only time he has money is when he steals a book from the university bookstore then sells it back to them: Then it’s acceptable to spend that money. Mike was one of the most gentle, kind people I have ever met. He’s decided to live in such a way that he never engages what he views as a corrupt and immoral system. After spending some time with him I envied that conviction, realizing I’m not really convinced of anything.
all in all we got about 4 hours of sleep before we headed of to the metro to go into DC. I met the president of the GMU SDS, who was a nice enough guy as committed to his cause as anyone, and good at getting things organized. The thing is, SDS really strives to not be hierarchal, so he doesn’t have the power traditionally associated with presidents. It was interesting (and sometimes frustrating) to watch all the SDS groups together vote on every decision they made. Of course several times the vote would be premature and the discussion would still be going on, so it wasn’t uncommon to see 30-40 votes taken on a single issue.
Paul was marching with us, and was an aging hippie who has been helping out with protests for the past 40 years. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and fervently pushed for marching on the pentagon because it was only a short way home for him from there. There was a kind of dualism about him; happy to protest and ready to fight the man, but also frustrated that protesting wasn’t having an immediate impact and didn’t like to stick around the whole day if he could avoid it.
Norman was affiliated with SDS, although I’m not sure of exactly how. He teaches biology at the community college up there in northern VA, and is a Phd student at Mason. He was nice enough to lend me his gloves when he saw i didn’t have any. He was also the voice of reason against fear; when someone would suggest that we might be arrested if we march into Virginia on the Pentagon, he would say something like, ‘so what did you come here for in the first place? This is supposed to be somewhat dangerous.” We had a good time laughing at the counter-protesters (the “29 percenters” as I call them), although he didn’t really like Mike’s idea to organize a counter-protest against the counter-protestors. Said it would be “pointless.” I disagree. something funny is never pointless. Besides, we were exercising our “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” They were assembled to redress what? our redressing? They weren’t grievanced, they were just saying, “hey, we don’t like you ‘love, peace, and understanding’ types.” One guy even had a sign that said, ‘peace sucks.’ I still wonder why he doesn’t just enlist.
i could go on for quite a while more about Megan, Nada, and Erin specifically, I could talk about the problems i had with some of the leadership among SDS and the anarchists that they teamed up with, or the balls that the shield-holders showed when facing down the cops on our way to the pentagon (we never made it btw, we just stared at them for an hour and almost got ourselves gassed too many times), but this has gone on long enough. Oh, I should also mention the volunteer medics there to help out infirmed protesters, and the professionalism of the cops that blocked our way; they may have been blocking us, but they were more lenient than they had to be despite some inappropriate taunts from protesters. In the end I saw quite a bit of humanity exhibited not out of necessity, but because everyone decided it was the better thing to do to take care of each other and be kind even to those we don’t like rather than fight each other for king of the hill.