If a tree falls in a forest and no one is nearby to hear it does it make a sound? Well, I’m back from our nation’s capitol, and I’m here to tell you, that’s about the size of it. My father, Kyle Whaley (a family friend), and my wife and I car pooled into Syracuse early Saturday morning around 1:00am. We arrived early at the meeting spot, filled with excitement and anticipation for the coming events. Awaiting us was an approximately nine hour bus ride to D.C., which, of course didn’t include the necessary rest stops for eating and bathroom breaks, or the ride into town on the metro.
When we arrived at our destination in Greenbelt, Maryland
, slightly behind schedule due to a late start, we stepped out into a sea of busses. It seemed the whole parking lot was practically filled with other chartered busses and we (my wife) quickly noted our row number (4A) so we’d be able to find our way back. After some difficulty with the ticket system–we are by no means city folk, the last mass transportation system I had to deal with was in Germany
, which was all touch screen ease– we preceded up the escalator to the Metro platform. While waiting for the next train so many people crowded onto the platform behind us that the employees at the station had to keep people off the escalator for fear the crowd would spill out onto the tracks.
I haven’t seen a train that crowded since I was stationed in Korea. We jumped off at the stop for the National Archives and walked straight into a staging area for counter protestors in front of the Naval Memorial. We walked through them with amazingly little to no conflict, and preceded past the IRS building and the National Museum of Natural History, down Constitution Ave towards the Washington Monument. We met some local press along the way and I did a short interview with a reporter from the Post Standard
. I have to say I was caught a little off guard and hadn’t expected, nor had thought of how to handle, questions from the media, thus my remarks were a little off the cuff:
One of the many veterans in the crowd was Fred Bieling, of Auburn, who was stationed in Jordan during the Iraq war with a Patriot missile unit and is now in the National Guard. He came to the march with his father, Herman, a veteran of many Washington anti-war demonstrations.
"I'd like to see some action come out of this so we can maybe finally get an endgame and figure out how to bring the troops home," Fred Bieling said. "Maybe this will wake up some political people (and help them) realize if they want to get re-elected, they might want to start thinking about how to bring the troops home."
It's time for the governing of Iraq to be turned over to the people of Iraq, he said. "They have a constitution that they've forced through, and they're going to go ahead and vote on it, and after that they're on their own. I mean, just pack up and leave."
After that debacle (so much for my political career) our group, and the rest of the Syracuse Peace Council
contingent, rallied at the corner of Constitution and 15th Street to await the start of the march, which was then almost an hour ahead at 12:30 pm.
Well, 12:30 came and went, there were so many people that it was literally a human traffic jam. Amazingly my wife and I ran into an old acquaintance, and an alumni of our alma mater, Moravia Central School
, Kyle Gilbertson. Kyle is an amazing musician who I can remember playing the bass, even back while still in high school, with unreal speed and precision. He and I caught up on each others lives a little as he related how he was living in Chicago and was involved with the Socialist Worker
, a newspaper with an online counterpart
. He gave me a hard copy of the September 23rd issue, which I poured through on the bus ride home.
Melessa and I , along with my father and Kyle (Whaley) then made way into the throng of people at the start point, only to directed this here and there, as the Goldstar Families for Peace
and the Veterans for Peace
jockeyed for position. There was such confusion I never spied Mrs. Sheehan, although upon my return I realized she was right there in the crowd after viewing pictures of the march at Yahoo. [video here
, pictures here
] The crowd was so tight my wife had a resurgence of closterphobia, the first since her experience negotiating the steps to the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. We escaped the crowd and went to find a bathroom and some water.
As it turns out we wouldn’t see my Dad again until we returned to the Metro station, although we did find Kyle toward the end. We rejoined the march once it had finally started moving by paralleling it along 14th street and slipping in the crowd marching by the Treasury building. We were soon around the corner and onto New York Ave and within a few minutes we found ourselves at the White House.The momentum of the crowd slowed, just as it had in front of Madison Square Garden
last year. Melessa and I enjoyed a sit down in Lafayette Park, eventually preceding past St. Johns Episcopal Church, "The Church of the Presidents," and on towards the Capitol building.
Then came the confrontation. No big deal really, just a shouting match between me and some meathead Jesus jumpers talking through a loudspeaker about how we’re all going to hell for doing what we are doing. So I went on ahead and blew my voice out screaming at this idiot. You should have seen the flash of surprise in his eyes when I started asking him why he was out of uniform. "Where is turban, where is your hood?" I pointed him out, to everyone's amusment, as a prime example of the American Taliban.
After we completed the circuit we found Kyle lying in the field of crosses next to Camp Casey. We made our way over just in time to catch a song or two from Wayne Kramer of the MC5
on our way to the World War Two Memorial. I’ll leave you with some parting words of wisdom I found there:
THE HEROISM OF OUR OWN TROOPS…WAS MATCHED BY THAT OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE
NATIONS THAT FOUGHT BY OUR SIDE…THEY ABSORBED THE BLOWS…AND THEY SHARED TO THE
FULL IN THE ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENEMY.
- President Harry S Truman