We are the ones we've been waiting for
Monday's journal entry gave voice to what I saw and heard on that historic day of protest in our nation's capitol. It was a good place to start. This morning I awake early with the need to recall how it felt to be among over 100,000--in my opinion, more like 500,000--women, children and men on those streets and patches of earth where so many millions have stood and marched in demonstrations for peace and justice since Washington, DC first became the geographical center of our federal government.
There is an energy deposited there that you feel through the soles of your feet, or, in my case and that of my wheeled sisters and brothers, through the wheels upon which you ride. It is an energy of persistence in the face of seemingly impossible odds, an energy that says your presence matters, that each individual has a unique and essential place in the whole. We were not a mass of humanity on those streets, on the Ellipse or on the Mall. No, we were a collection of individual drops of heart, head, body and spirit that together flowed into a river of resistance, a sea of responsible action, an ocean of intent. Separate drops of water take millennia to change the surface of a stone upon which they fall; rivers, seas and oceans transform seemingly solid realities in an instant.
September 24, 2005 was just such an instant.
It was the day our country manifested a new reality, the truth that the majority of people who live in this well-meaning but often unthinking nation do NOT go along with their president's war on Iraq. They do not believe his protestations that we must "stay the course." They say, "Get out now and bring our troops home where they belong!"
At least a half a million people said that with their presence in DC, and probably a million more said it with their presence at rallies and marches in cities and towns across our country. Not to mention our sisters and brothers in other countries.
To be in the presence of such determination, such extreme concern and deep-felt conviction was like getting a transfusion of hope. This is who we are, not the lemmings we'd feared were following their leader off a high cliff. Every one of the individuals who showed up in Washington, DC on Saturday paid for that experience with comfort, convenience, money, time and in many cases, the approval of their family and friends.
It wasn't just that we had travelled--many of us hundreds and even thousands of miles--to be there, it was that many of us had travelled uncounted miles of changed attitudes and deepened commitment to the principle that true democracy means our voices count, that we are the democracy in which we believe. There were more first-time protesters than at any previous national demonstration, perhaps in history, persons for whom it was not the norm to take to the streets, especially not the streets of their nation's capitol.
Think of it: hundreds of thousands of individual women and men who made the decision--for many an agonizing decision--that enough was enough! This president and his administration have taken a wrong turn and are leading our country on a path that leads to ruin. Each person marching beside the majestic houses of government on those historic streets, sitting and standing during the rally at the Ellipse, stopping to meditate on the true cost of war at the 1,910 crosses, Stars of David and crescent moons planted in the earth under the Washington Monument, dancing to the music of politically aware performers at the concert on the Mall...each of us carried the seed of change within our hearts and minds, each of us is an essential part of the transformation our world and planet needs to survive. As the song goes, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."
As the day wore on, as marchers who had been on the street for hours passed by 14th Street and New York Avenue, NW, where I stood as my friend Lisa waited in a l-o-n-g line for sandwiches for herself, Jessi and me, my sign drew hundreds of smiles, cheers and thumbs up. Earlier in the day it had drawn no response, but by 5 PM on Saturday, September 24, 2005 on the still-crowded streets of Washington, DC, people knew in their guts what my sign really meant. It said, "Look around you--See Our Power!"
And our power is what we need to recognize and use in order to take our country back from leaders whose inclinations and actions lead to death and destruction for all but their favored few. Stopping the war on Iraq is just the beginning. We need to keep Saturday's momentum going and growing with grassroots mobilization of concerned citizens and non-citizens alike. Each town and city must become a center of thought and action where people come together to reclaim their power locally and nationally. But it must go beyond that. We must coordinate our efforts so our true power is felt. The things that divide us must be put aside, at least for now. We must find and build on what unites us. Within that shared consciousness, we'll find that our differences will enhance not separate us; they are the building blocks that strengthen rather than the barriers that divide.
The internet is an effective tool to use in this country-wide mobilization, but there must be opportunties to come together regularly, face-to-face and voice-to-voice. We need to continue to take to the streets, but even more than that, we must sit in circles and discuss what we think and determine what actions we need to take. It seems to me we can use the model created by those for whom civil disobedience is a tool of change: local affinity groups and regional spokes councils. Each affinity group would meet regularly and then send a member or two to a regional spokes council where decisions would be made by consensus. And, in this case, each regional spokes council would choose members from its body to meet regularly in a national spokes council.
We cannot wait; time is of the essence. I see the groups and individuals who organized this September 24th national mobilization as the natural leaders of our movement. Cindy Sheehan and her co-workers from Camp Casey Crawford and the Bring The Troops Home Now! Tour, Medea Benjamin and her sister organizers of Code Pink, the folks at United For Peace & Justice, and A.N.S.W.E.R. are a just a few national leaders who come to mind.
Let us not stop now. Saturday's march and rally, Sunday's trainings and meetings, and Monday's civil disobedience and Congressional lobbying were just the start. Now is the time to work together to make the changes we know must be made. WE are the ones we've been waiting for!
--posted by Patricia Lay-Dorsey