- hip-hop poet and musician Michael Franti
WASHINGTON, D.C. - From the top of the steps of the Romanesque Lincoln Memorial looking east at night, you gain an interesting perspective. The lit-up, Egyptian obelisk Washington Monument stands like a beacon of phallic-themed power, blocking the Capitol Building's dome, as its image reflects an even darker side in the nearby pond.
It's fitting in this world-wide political epicenter that the tallest structure is one that lends an obvious warning: Get ready to get screwed.
Around you are expensive memorials to wars - World War II, Vietnam, Korea - reminding us of lessons we never quite seem to grasp, no matter how much we spend on them, no matter how many visit them. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato still said it best: All wars come down to the possession of wealth. And nowhere in this city have I seen a monument to Plato.
And if you focus hard enough during such fleeting moments of pure introspection, you can catch a glimpse, some nugget of inspiration, that helps you continue on.
Born in this hypocritical, seductive, power-mad city, I moved at an early age to Texas, where I lived almost as long as George W. Bush and much longer than fellow U.S. Constitution-pisser Dick Cheney. Since the early 1980s, I have returned mostly to join with sometimes a few, sometimes a few thousand and sometimes a few hundred thousand, in making a statement to the powers that be, which often seem to be little more than pissing in the wind. One time, I spent more than six months walking here on a peace mission from Texas only to meet with a disarmament advisor to former President Ron Ray "Don't Call Me Gay" Gun, who tried to claim that building more weapons of mass destruction to point at the former Soviet Union was the best way to disarm those weapons. I walked on and met some saner people.
Two years ago, I returned to D.C. for good to attempt to more directly combat the current Orwellian administration, to beat my head against the wall a little harder. There are times when it actually seems worthwhile, that some progress is being made. Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, was such a time.
Karl Rove and his political operatives who make the Watergate dealers look like kids did their best to keep people from turning out for the first mass demonstration to be allowed to march past the front of the White House in more than a decade, organized by groups like United for Peace and Justice. They called Cindy Sheehan, the courageous mother of a fallen son in Iraq who has done more to refuel the anti-war movement than anyone in the past couple of months with her Crawford vigil, a "clown." They claimed the peace movement didn't even exist, then spread warnings of right-wing, government infiltrators who would incite violence and electromagnetic weapons that would be beamed at participants. Some even blamed Rove for an odd five-hour delay of a New York train carrying marchers that was said to be caused by an electrical problem.
It was similar to the Bush thugs warnings of terrorism incidents and threats of violence and mass arrests made a year ago before the Republican National Convention in New York City. Then, the FBI even targeted "potential" protesters for interrogation, and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into whether people who posted names of Republican delegates and their hotels on Indymedia.org engaged in voter intimidation. This time, odd private Blackwater ops security guards patrolled the streets carrying imposing batons. But there wasn't near as many police on the streets as in New York, although the crowd numbers seemed to get close to the 500,000 in New York.
Before the New York demo, First Stepford Wife Laura Bush awoke from her coma long enough to denounce protesters as "anarchists." This time, she was fairly quiet, even when the large rally and march ruined her annual National Book Festival on the nearby mall.
My first protest in front of the Off-White House when I returned to the D.C. area two years ago was a tiny one whose organizers were told they had to keep it small, below 20 people, due to city law. Before Sept. 24, the best protest I had been to in Lafayette Park across from the Off-White House was an impromptu one by my toddler son a year ago. As my head was turned and I spoke with Concepcion Picciotto, an activist who had stood up to Bush and other presidents with an anti-nuclear vigil in that park since 1981, my son mooned Bush and pissed in front of him and police. While not socially appropriate, his actions were a fitting echo of the way Bush Inc. whizzed on the Constitution every day.
This time, Concepcion was hidden by a colorful maze of people from all ages, all backgrounds, many of whom traveled long distances like some I was with who came all the way from California, carrying creative messages like "Make Levees, Not War." Some carried flag-draped caskets, and several wore Bush masks with prison jumpsuits.
There were also more than 250 military family members whose visits were organized by Gold Star Families for Peace[www.gsfp.org] and Military Families Speak Out [www.mfso.org] that set up a Camp Casey D.C. in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Army 1st Sgt. Frank Cookinham, a Rhode Island vet who recently returned from a second tour of duty in Iraq, told the Washington Post he wore his uniform because it was "the only way I can shove it to Bush."
Sheehan, who along with her sister Dee Dee, former state department official Ann Wright, Michael Berg, the father of slain U.S. contractor Nick Berg, and others were arrested two days later in a planned civil disobedience demonstration, was the main highlight, even overshadowing the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. In a plain-spoken column on Truthout.org, Sheehan addressed the accusations leveled by slimeball Rove in a way that put John Kerry and his mostly weak retorts to Rove's lies to shame.
"We are not going away until this illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq is over, and you [Rove] are sent back to the depths of whatever slimy, dark, and loathsome place you came from," Sheehan wrote. "I may be a clown, Karl, but you are about to be indicted."
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