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Reflections on the Peace March
by Charles Keil
Submitted 05/08/02

My wife Angie and I decided to go to the peace march in Washington D.C. April 20th because we were so frustrated with watching an undefined and unwinable "war on terror" go forward while the life support system of this planet is being systematically destroyed at an accelerating pace. Biz as usual for burning oil, more armaments and more nukes in space are not just economically and politically unsustainable but certain death for many species. Better march.

We were worried that the earliest demonstration against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank might turn confrontational or be disrupted to create a Genoa or Seattle scenario, but everything was peaceful as we sat on a park bench early Saturday morning and watched the Rain Forest Action youth pump up a giant balloon of the earth with a "Not for Sale" sign on it. At one point the half inflated balloon looked just like a giant turtle. I urged one of the attendants holding a strap to video this pump-up phase next time so that people could see Turtle Island morphing into Mother Earth. A student with an acoustic guitar sang a protest song. Young men with dzembes and drums wandered around. Rev. Billy appeared and passed out gowns to an ad hoc Stop Shopping Gospel Choir: "you don't have to sing, just shout Halleleuja if you hear something you like." Angie was interviewed by someone from Pacifica radio. So many police standing by, so many cameras and microphones; we must be making a difference.

At 11 we went to Farragut Square to meet my trumpet and cornet playing pals from the 12/8 Path Band in Buffalo, Greg and Gabe. As we strolled back to the IMF/World Bank we blew a resonant low register St. James Infirmary to bury any past bad vibes and I felt reunited with my crew. We soon attached ourselves to the Takoma Park Rhythm Workers Union who had some good junjun bass drums on wheels (the mother ship they called it) and great women "mother drummers" (the biggest low drums are always the mother drums in West Africa and you know the acculturation process is moving in the right direction when white youth are getting it that the mother is the foundation and often the soloist, big voice, "master drum", in the ensemble). We liked the TPRWU grooves and the slogans on their shirts and banner said what I wanted to say in DC: "Jammin for Justice" and "The Earth is alive and She is not for sale." So we added our trumpet and cornets tunes, or beat the agogos and cowbells on our belts to their drum patterns, and stuck close to the Mother ship for the parade.

As the march got started it gradually became clear that most people were marching for Palestine and against Israel. I never did see many signs about the massive application of herbicides in Colombia or our efforts to control oil fields there; nothing came my way on shutting down the School of the Americas and the Latin American issues that seemed like "a third" of the protest on the website didn't emerge. The anti-IMF/World Bank protestors melted into the crowd. We never hooked up with the Green contingents but Angie saw a group with green flags go by and didn't see any signs that proclaimed the 10 key values.

By late afternoon my overall sense of the march was that this was like the Durban meetings where the conference was supposedly about racism but 1000s of delegates from 170 countries found it easier to scapegoat Israel and promote the Palestinian cause than to deal with racism in their own countries. Here in DC, even though a majority of people probably came with the many reasons that peace is so urgently needed firmly in mind, they went with the Palestinian flow, or turned away at some point. I left when they dropped the big Palestinian flag from the speaker's platform at the end of the mall and it was obvious that no other flags would be flying that day.

Fascism and thuggery are rising fast around the globe and especially in the industrialized countries. "It" creates a climate in which ultrapatriarchal Arab despotisms seem normal, suicide bombers seem understandable, scapegoating Jews and Israel seems acceptable, and halting the accelerating processes that can kill us all - global warming, bioengineering disasters, ozone depletion, diseases spreading, nukes proliferating - seem to be postponeable problems. They are not! While we are denying these real problems, every SUV that drives up to the pump, every gun fired in anger, every civil liberty and freedom lost, every martyr buried, seems like an AVB to me - Another Victory for Bin Laden.

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