I find that I may be reintroducing myself to an old habit. Again, yesterday, I drove to the park with the J.C. Nichols fountain at the entrance to the Plaza for the weekly protest vigil in Kansas City.
I previously wrote about last week's vigil - one which I participated in after a long absence.
I started out at 3:30 p.m. on my own. I have a little over an hour long drive in - I usually arrive early. From past experience I know that one person with a picket sign still draws the eyes of passersby.
There's something in the combination of the sound of the wind and the noise of the passing traffic (sans honking horns) which is rather peaceful. Still, it's cold and a brisk wind is at my back.
I notice that there's much less traffic than usual. Most of the passing people appear subdued, even those who give us signs of support. By 4:00 p.m. others have gathered. At its peak we have 15 individuals on the line, many who have been here every week for over four years. I've attended enough so that the "regulars" know my face and greet me. Several thank me for coming out.
I estimate the average age of those on the line to be somewhere around 60.
There's a certain familiar banality to this:
December 1, 2002Now we get a few single fingers. Some people just refuse to look at us, especially when they are stopped in front of us by the traffic signal into the Plaza. It's interesting to see their discomfort. Guilt maybe?
My spouse and I drove down to the Plaza to participate in the weekly 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. vigil at the J.C. Nichols fountain. We parked in the parking garage next to the huge chain book store. My spouse went inside to use the restroom. Since I was carrying my rolled up protest signs I thought better of going in the store, so I waited outside and watched the holiday shoppers stroll by.
There was a young rake in blue designer fatigues and color coordinated head scarf standing about fifteen feet from me, smoking a cigarette. Every time a well dressed young woman walked by he’d blurt out somewhat coherent observations in a rather forward stream of consciousness. I suppressed the urge to suggest he work on his pick up lines.
We walked through the bustling crowd to the fountain. As before, there aren’t very many people there - two or three who were milling about and a few joggers and casual strollers. At a quarter to four my spouse asked, "Is anyone going to show up?"
There is a palpable grim determination and an almost weary resignation, a frightening banality to it all. This, the routine of watching others driving up, unloading signs and still other protesters who trickle in over the next hour (ultimately having around 200 pickets present on the line). The drummers start late. We converse with other protesters standing next to us, commenting on each other’s choice of signs, exchanging the address of alternative web sites, bashing the media whores (all of them), talking about the future of the party. Most of the conversations take on a mundane tone, as if we were all sharing afternoon tea and pleasant talk with old friends, while the occasional driver intrudes with a car horn in support or another flips us off.
I held my three signs in alternation. In an act of petty defiance, after a series of passing motorists direct angry gestures at us, I settle on holding up my most partisan sign - "No W bartcop.com". I want them to be as angry as I am. At that point my spouse decided to hold up the sign which reads, "In the Name of God, Stop Killing, In the Name of God".
There is quiet, stubborn defiance in this persistence. The sense of community and empowerment takes over. It is an affirming experience, a sense of mission in letting others know they are not alone in their opposition to this obscene war. If not now, when? If not us, who?
We took time, as did several other protesters, to take some pictures in the fading light. I walk down the line, see and greet my new friend, the retired Catholic priest who I met at the previous event two weeks ago. A younger man introduces himself and his wife. He is the son of a long time activist friend. I inquire about his mother’s health, he tells me she is fine and that she said to look for me – holding the bartcop sign.
After a brief series of announcements over a bullhorn by the organizers we left the protest and walked through the Plaza back to our car. The near instant juxtaposition with upscale holiday shoppers is jarring.
I point out to another individual on the line that the majority of single finger salutes appear to come from people (of all ages) in cars (from all economic backgrounds) with Kansas license plates.
We get thumbs up, peace signs, and honking horns from many.
We also get a few drunks hanging out of windows yelling incoherent phrases. At one point, the activist next to me remarks, "I hope the driver isn't as drunk as his passenger."
A clock tower strikes the hour. Several people on the line turn from the street to start home. So, at 5:00 p.m. I walk back to my car for the hour long drive home.