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Stateside With Rosalea: What would Mary do?


Stateside With Rosalea: What would Mary do?

By Rosalea Barker

"George Bush, get a clue! The people of the world are not with you. George Bush, get a clue! The people of the world are not with you." The chant is swallowed up by a kind of Mexican-wave cheer that is passing from the back of the march up to the front. Underneath it, I'm asking a woman in the crowd: "If you can just give me your name or your age or anything that kind of gives people overseas an idea of what your background is and why you're here today, that would be great. Thank you." She chooses to respond to all the identifiers I've jotted down on a piece of paper: name, age, ethnic background, citizenship, religion, job, education, why are you here today?

:::::::::::::::::

My name's Nicky and I'm 39 years old, and I'm a mother, and I'm white, a born-and-raised Californian, and I'm a church-going Methodist. I've been a social worker for a while, but now I have a masters degree in social work and currently working with special needs children in the classroom. I'm here today because I don't agree with the pre-emptive strike. I don't agree with the amount of power that Congress has given to our President, and I don't like the way he's using it. I think he's doing it out of greed and out of keeping his popularity versus what's really needed. I don't think that a war is needed. I think that it's been too scattered an approach in first Osama, and then moving on to other axis... I think it's stupid. I just think it's really stupid. So I"m here today to say that I don't agree with this. My daughter's here and my Mom. My daughter is seven, and we've had lots of conversations about what it means to have a voice and that we have a right in the United States to do that, and to demonstrate, and to not agree with those people in charge in a peaceful way, and in a non-condescending way, and in a respectful manner. We don't always see that here, so it's always a great learning experience to do that. To have a dialogue about that.

Me: She just had her photo taken, and partly maybe because of the sign that says "Republican against the war".

Oh, that's my Mom. Yeah. My Mom's carrying a sign. She's a Republican. Didn't vote for Bush - thankfully - but she's here and it's her first protest. So we're helping to initiate her in speaking her voice.

::::::::::::::::::::

And then the inevitable happens: I give the tape recorder to Mom to ask why she's here, and somehow the pause button gets pushed and I don't record a thing. One thing I remember though, was her starting off by saying she didn't hear what her daughter said, because her granddaughter had been saying, "I love you, Nana" and that took precedence.

When I listen to that tape, I'm right back in the middle of the demonstration, walking up San Francisco's Market Street - four lanes wide and completely packed with people, even on the sidewalks. Not shoulder-to-shoulder jam-packed, except in places where the street narrows, but we're all walking close enough to bump into each other every now and then. It's a sunny day, but chilly in the canyons between tall buildings. Market Street is a challenge to walk up because of the trolley lines, ventilation gratings for the BART and Muni trains that run beneath it, and the utility access gratings. It's hell on small wheels, and many people are pushing strollers or bikes or have kids on scooters. One legless guy is on a skateboard.

I left the East Bay to go to San Francisco an hour after the rally had begun on account of being at gospel choir practice, learning how to belt out a song "with altotude", so the train carriage I boarded was fairly empty apart from some people carrying a couple of large pretzels on sticks. The pretzels had been baked in the shape of peace signs and were about the size of a large dinner plate. A couple of hours later, one of the last marchers to straggle past me had made a peace sign out of long skinny balloons. "Peace," I was reminded later in the day, by one marcher's hand-made sign, "is not just the absence of war."

Having marched to the Civic Center and listened to some of the speakers, I started back down the marching route and decided just to stand and watch the crowd go by to satisfy myself that it really was as diverse a crowd as the organisers were claiming on the radio broadcasts. It was, though I'd hazard a guess that my one interviewee would probably have been found in the densest clusters of dots in any scattergraphs of each of those individual identifiers. Put more simply, it seemed that, although there was a full age range of people, most of the marchers were from their mid-twenties to mid-forties; although there was a full range of ethnicities, most were white, and so on. But, really, what can you tell from just looking at people?

Here then are some of their signs, fpr tje most part hand-made:

Another voter for peace. * Unelected drunken frat boy leading world to brink of war. * Start drafting SUV drivers now! * Go solar, not ballistic. * Thou shalt not kill. * Love is the answer. * U.S. out of America. * This war is wrong. (A white paper plate, with a peace sign and the words written on it in red and blue.) * American patriot against war on Iraq. * Transsexual vegan lesbian epidemioligist for peace. * Try pre-emptive peace. * To fight terrorism, work for justice. * Seek God. (Person on the sidewalk protesting the protest, perhaps?) * No ala guerra. * We cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war - Albert Einstein. * Our world is not a war-pig feeding trough. * They make a desolation and they call it peace - Tacitus, Roman historian. * Republican against the war and Bush. * The grassroots are growing. * Read the Bible. (Another protest against the protest?) * The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people. * Duh! Don't kill children. Go solar. * Bush Sharon Blair Axis of Armageddon. * Democracy is Us - corporations are destroying democracy. * It's my flag too, dammit. * DU is DUmb (reference to depleted uranium dumped after the Gulf War). * Bush Cheney Rumsfeld The Axis of delusion. * Niner fans - sack Bush! (reference to the SF football team, the 49ers). * Choose love and connection - dance tango. * Texans against Bush. * Hero (photo of Martin Luther King) Pawn (photo of George W. Bush) * War on Iraq is imperialist and racist. * Peace Love Justice * Tell us about the Fatherland Security Act. * Who REALLY voted this guy in? * Hey Bush, forget Saddam - get me the bastards from Enron. * Hell no, we won't go, we won't kill for Texaco. * Old broads for peace. * Top ten reasons for Iraqi war (ten blank lines). * No torture of anyone for any reason ever.

*King Romero Ghandi. * Giddy domestic heads with foreign quarrels - Shakespeare. * Education cuts equals weapons of destruction * When people criticise Zionists they mean Jews - MLK. * Peace is patriotic (held by an elderly lady with photos of her husband and son in their miltary uniforms) * Mr Cheney, how many people does it take for you to get rich? Stop the bullshit. * Democracy (spelled out in corporate logos, e.g. the Disney 'D', on the US flag). * Here's what your neighbors are saying: War NO, Sanctions NO, Constitution YES (over photocopy of the famous painting of the farming couple with their pitchfork). * Where are we? Warheads in Iraq. Airheads in the White House. * Globalize democracy. * Colorado physics students against pre-emptive nuclear strikes. * Even spineless creatures oppose war (group walking under an elaborate home-made jellyfish canopy). * Killing innocent people is the problem, not the solution. * Peace Corps volunteer, registered Republican, says No War. * Stimulate the economy. * We must end war or war will end us. * They're selling war. We're not buying. * Peace: Back by popular demand. * What would Mary say? (Placard with picture of the Virgin.) * The United States is 5 percent of the world's population. * Nobody wins a war. * Peace - try it, you'll like it! (In the form of a ballot with all the choices being peace.) * No racist scapegoating. Stop all killing. * Deportation destroys families. * Guerro No! Educacion Si! * Use words not weapons. * War was never the answer. * We are all related. * Peace. Earth. Always. Care. Everyone. * Bollocks to Shite. * What if your family was in Iraq? * Batman Rocks. Bombs don't. * Usurpation. Starvation. Annihilation. * Furries for peace (flag with pawprints and fun-fur peace sign). * Stop repeat offenders. Don't re-elect them. * Bush's policies endanger America, enrage the world.

I don't imagine anyone actually expects the Bush administration to not go to war just because so many people in the world are against it. They've been planning it for a long time, and the word on the street is that the date of the invasion is February 20. I mean literally, on the street. I happened to be standing under a notice for the next anti-war rally on February 15 and a guy came up to me and said: "Oh, just a few days before the invasion on the 20th. No, really. They just need the time to get all the troops in place."

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