Generational Activism; Bringing 'Em Up
By Elena Belsky
When the Vietnam War motivated people to come together and protest, my parents were outspoken peace activists - my mother, Gloria was organizer of the first Peace and Freedom Party in Los Angeles, and ran a draft counseling center. For two years, 1966 through 1968, our family traveled north to San Francisco and south to LA to attend the various peace marches and anti-war meetings. I was four and five years old, yet the sights and sounds of the era are vividly imprinted on my memory.
With this new "contrived" war becoming more immanent, the feeling of needing to make a statement and be counted has welled up once again in the general populace, and our family in particular.
Since my mother has been disabled by strokes in the last few years, my father, Ted, and I provide in-home care-whenever one of us goes out, the other must stay behind-representative foot soldier to join the "anti-wars."
So off I went to march in San Francisco in February, with friend Sue, chaperoning three teenage girls, to walk along side as many as 250,000 other like-minded, good hearted-souls. We were surprised and pleased to see so many families with children of all ages; in strollers, on shoulders, walking with their signs and flags. Children often had proudly drawn or written their own signs, and were encouraged to talk to strangers about their feelings. It was wonderful-we all educated each other. If you feel the marches are too crowded in San Francisco, an impromptu street corner demonstration closer to home or talking to your neighbors can be just as meaningful, expressive and educational for the children.
Clever People, Clever Signs
It seems that once again, as in the 60's anti-war movement, that peace marchers are being portrayed as "wild-eyed, knee-jerk liberals" by the pro-war governments and 'our' corporately-owned media.
The SF Bay Area is often reputed to have some of the best-educated and best-informed voters in the country. It is a shame these marches have not been televised by our local broadcast stations-the marches are far more entertaining than the Rose Bowl, and, beyond humor and rhetoric, the signs show that the marchers are well educated and have an in-depth knowledge of the issues.
The diversity of ages and ethnicity was impressive and made for a lively mix of discussions during the three hour walk to the Civic Center rally point. While it's true that Civil Rights and Truth are the first casualties of war, the people of the peace movement are keeping them alive and kicking.
Watching world-wide coverage of the peace marches in January, my parents commented on the immediacy of the events and the rapid mobilization of the movement versus the years it took to generate such momentum in the 60's. The participants are clearly keeping themselves up-to-date with current events on a daily basis. The internet is playing a major role in assisting local and global organizing of the anti-war rallies - it is also where I go to find accurate and uncensored information.
Passing The Family Torch
Gloria avidly watched the television coverage of the recent peace marches and was obviously distressed that she could not participate-the flame still burns, but the body is unable to answer the call to battle. She said regretfully, "I can't do it this time." I unfolded the huge 5 foot by 3 foot earth flag I had just bought and said, "I know. It's my turn." She laughed delightedly-the family tradition of tilting at the windmills of social justice would continue on.
I was disappointed, however that the rest of my family could not participate by watching live coverage of the demonstrations in San Francisco. When I got into the middle of that positive and thoughtfully progressive crowd, I was amazed and exhilarated. I called home in excitement to tell Gloria and Ted to turn on the television so they could feel a part of the events. I was astounded to learn that not one station was offering live coverage of a peace march of this magnitude. And disgusted that those same media conglomerates are promising press coverage of the Iraq war that the Chronicle avows will be, "breathtaking."
Hundreds of thousands of people are marching together, in separate countries and on separate continents, hemispheres apart, yet all for the same cause. And the US media coverage is simply dismal. During the February march, with all local channels visibly in attendance, not one single station was broadcasting live. With 250,000 people flooding the streets of SF, which is nine times more than fill a stadium at virtually any sporting event all of which are televised, not to mention mind-numbing televised parades-and they tape delay coverage of an historic demonstration?! That evening, I watched all the network news channels- the average time devoted to the quarter-million person peaceful demonstration was a minuscule 20 seconds; the average time devoted to the 40 arrested-idiots, of a rowdy splinter group was over two minutesÉ with LIVE coverage at the jail. If it bleeds, it leads.
A Few Favorite Scenes
Favorite reoccurring theme: Mad Cowboy Disease
Slogan of the Day: "Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot."
Best First Peace March: See photo.
Best Individual Effort: An enlisted Army Chemical Weapons Specialist who carried a sign saying "We ARE making a difference"-who, despite his concerns about being seen by a superior officer, felt it important to participate in the march.
Most Touching Kid Scene: Two 5 year old artists staked out an entire street intersection at the Rally, and spent hours drawing peace symbols, doves and LOVE, with colored chalk. No one in a crowd of 250,000 people was willing to step into their space.
The Time to Act is Now
I had not been in a crowd that large since my last peace march in 1968, which always had an air of tension and potential danger, pleasantly and entirely absent in 2003. I urge everyone to go for the statement, go for the people; it's wonderful to join voices in a common song of rationality and peace. Our very democracy is at risk if we don't sing, and sing together as loudly as we possibly can.
The next Peace March in San Francisco will be on Saturday, March 15, 11 a.m. Prepare the next generation of peace activists - bring your children!
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