Today we had the fifth of our monthly anti-war marches through the Village of Pawling, NY, not known for being a bastion of radicalism. Jane and I had marched in all of the previous ones except for last month's, when family matters prevented our participation. The turnout was small, as it seems to be dwindling each month. (This time it was actually was just Jane and me and four other people, as I feared it would be the first month.) It's understandable. We began during the summer when everyone had time and the kids were around to participate. Now, with school underway, the normal Saturday activities (like football games and such) give parents less time to devote to such causes, and I understand that. Also, some local politicians scheduled a "Meet the Candidates" event around the same time, and since most of our participants are politically active, they thought it important to go to that. (The main candidate, whom I will not name, thought it more important than our march and said so.) I have perceived that we've been getting a lot more horn honkers than before, even if our numbers were smaller than our first march. Near the beginning of the route, one guy in a pickup truck slowed down to read our signs. (Sorry, but I always to check to see if they have a gun rack in their truck. This one didn't, so I felt less nervous.) Then, just as he pulled away, he yelled, "Move to Russia!" (Especially glad there was no gun rack now.) I don't think I will, sir, and I'll happily tell you why.
I like what I have here just fine, thank you. And I'm not talking about the material things like the computer I'm typing this on, the furniture around me allowing me to do it in comfort, or the house in which I sit safely protected from the elements while I do it. I'm talking about the environment in which I can do it freely. And I'm not talking about the size of the room in which I'm sitting, the comfortable breezy day outside beckoning me to help my wife with her garden (which I'll do later), or the clean air I can breathe outside thanks to liberals who cared about protecting the biosphere we need to survive against the capitalistic conservatives hell-bent on its long-term exploitation and destruction for the sake of short-term profits. I'm talking about the freedom I have to do it.
It's something I doubt I could ever have in Russia, even if I did sell my soul to work for the Putin government. No, sir. Here in the United States, I have the freedom to do exactly what I was doing this morning: exercising my constitutional rights. A protest march in America is a beautiful thing, regardless of the number of participants. It's a statement. And not just about ending the illegal occupation and continued warfare in Iraq that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives, the all-out attack on our civil liberties planned in secret prior to 9/11 and aimed at silencing those who would dissent, or the impeachment of a president and vice president who flagrantly and proudly disrespect the very document each of them took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend" against "all enemies". It's a statement about what makes this country of ours great, that every citizen has the right, free of government interference, to say what you want to about the war in Iraq, the erosion of our privacy rights, and the need to remove from office two men who clearly never intended to honor the oaths they took; to peaceably assemble with other like-minded individuals in groups large or small to demonstrate; and to tell the government what we think they are doing wrong and that we demand that they stop doing it. But it is also about so much more than that.
All of us matter. And I don't mean just the ones who fearlessly stand up to tell the public that a serious injustice is being carried out, the ones who forcefully persuade the government to change policy, or the ones who ferociously defend our very right to do all of that. I mean all us. Everyone on the planet. We are all human beings, and until we learn to see each other first as fellow human beings and not as someone segregated into a group we choose not to like, we will continue to make the mistake of sending human beings to fight and die with other human beings for ideals far less important than the ones that can give us hope for a better future for everyone. War is never justifiable. Greed and selfishness are often the root causes of war. The planet belongs to everyone, not just to those who stand atop it with a weapon in hand to stop others from sharing it. We need each other. The human race cannot survive in the long run if we keep dividing ourselves up. The day will come when a planetary-wide crisis will necessitate we put aside our differences and cooperate with one another to arrive at a solution. Should we prevail and overcome this crisis, will we have the wisdom to recognize that what we once fought each other to the death over before pales in significance to the importance of coming together for our common survival? I like to think we can. I'd like to think that you think we can, too. It's the first step toward world peace. And what kind of human being could be against that?