There are about 70 of us: men and women of all ages, gathered in front of Brightleaf Square this drizzly Saturday afternoon to hold up our anti-war signs. We’re situated at a busy intersection, a prime place to show passers-by our posters: “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, BRING THEM HOME!” “WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?” “SADDAM IS WRONG, BUT SO IS THIS WAR” “PEACE IS PATRIOTIC.”
The reactions we receive run the whole gamut, but by and large most drivers honk their horns in support and flash us the peace sign. Their encouragement is satisfying, but still I feel disappointed in today’s low turnout. I can’t help but imagine how large our group would be if every one of those people flashing the peace sign would join us. The past week has been filled with grueling reports of Iraqi citizens and our own soldiers dying. Why aren’t more people here showing their opposition? Is it because of the rain? Are people afraid of the reactions they’ll receive or that protesting will stir up too many emotions? Is it simply a matter of inconvenience?
Perhaps there’s a wariness of protesting in general–a sense that gathering in the streets is for hippies only, or that it somehow seems anti-American. Or perhaps many believe that protesting is ultimately ineffective, that it won’t accomplish anything at all. As one woman who opposes the war told me: “The war has already started. Protesting isn’t going to do anything. We should just hope this ends quickly and focus on issues at home.” Her response filled me with sadness and dread. She had already resigned herself to war’s seeming inevitability, which I saw–and still see–as a tacit approval of Bush’s manipulative maneuvering. How many others have also succumbed to resignation?
Like all of my friends, I feel frustrated and grief-stricken and angry. But I feel I need to do something. Something more than just continually writing e-mails to government officials. Something more than just talking about how horrible and wrong this war is. Attending these vigils each week gives shape and meaning to my disapproval and disappointment. I’m at least one person standing out in the open, visibly declaring my belief that this administration is steering us in the wrong direction. If I could just convince others to attend, I’m sure they’d experience a similar sense of empowerment.
I know that a large head count at Brightleaf Square isn’t going to end this war. But the mere act of making one’s voice heard, like the voting process, is a powerful act that is too often disregarded in our society. Our protesting locally, in unison with all the other protests worldwide, could be the first step in dismantling the gigantic war machine. Imagine what could be accomplished here in the Triangle if every single one of us who feels this war is wrong took to the streets. There’d be thousands upon thousands of us. People couldn’t just look away and pretend we didn’t exist. The media and our representatives would receive a clear and collective message of intense disapproval. And wouldn’t this be infinitely better than showing them nothing at all?