Friends of all flavors were in evidence at the March 19 rally and march in Portland, Oregon, marking the third anniversary since the invasion of Iraq. There always seemed to be people checking in at the Northwest Yearly Meeting booth and taking literature, buying water and bumper stickers, and talking with the Friends staffing the booth.
March 19 was a beautiful day for this event, which drew 10,000 participants according to the mainstream media. A huge coalition sponsored the demonstration, including Northwest Yearly Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Board and several Friends churches. Among the changes since the last time I attended one of these events: I saw far more signs denouncing torture.
One thing that didn't change: the presence of demonstrators from the "radical means obnoxious" school of social change movements. They wore bandannas over their faces, and with great volume and discipline shouted "Democrats can kiss my ass; it's not just Bush, it's the ruling class"; and "What's the solution? People's revolution. What's the reaction? Direct action." One of their signs: "Fuck the troops."
At one point, the family member who was marching with me and I found ourselves just behind this group. Several others around us were getting angry with these would-be radicals who seemed to want to set the tone for the whole march, and two young people near us had finally had enough. They began shouting "Support the soldiers, not the war." Amazingly, this slogan caught like wildfire, at which point the anti-imperialists turned around, and glared at us; several gave us the finger. As a group, they stopped in their tracks, perhaps planning to hold up the march. The volunteer marshals quickly organized a bypass for the rest of us, leaving the loudmouths somewhere behind us.
I sympathize with people who get tired of recreational protest and incremental reform, but a mass demonstration is for community-building and perhaps, if we're lucky, a reminder to the politicians that there is, after all, a large constituency supporting a more ethical foreign policy. Demonstrations are not the leading edge of political work; that's accomplished by the daily hard work of building relationships, deploying persuasive communications, and non-cooperation with evil. Prayer sets the perspective; love is the essential governor that keeps us from spinning into a cycle of objectification and arrogance. And all of us who try to do this, in our own sometimes bumbling ways, deserve a party now and then, where we enjoy each other's company as well as rehearse our lines and exchange ideas. I'm glad we didn't let those who had contempt for our peaceful ways spoil the day for us.
(A few months ago I wrote a weblog post rejecting the idea that, by participating in demonstrations with fringe groups, I was associating myself with their messages.)
For a few of us, the day ended with a special delight: a concert by Derek Lamson and Friends. Derek sang and played his guitars, accompanied by April Vanderwall (vocals and M.C. for the evening), Rich Vanderwall (bass), and Bill Norris-York (drums).
The concert was to help raise funds for Derek's trip to Burundi, where he hopes to minister through music and music education. He played long-time Derek and Friends favorites such as "Good King David," and some new material as well. We heard an unfinished song, just emerging, in honor of the late Tom Fox. A couple of the lines:
I hear Tom callin
from the other side,
other side of his release,
what will you pay
for a little war?
what will you pay
for a little peace?
Another extraordinary song, "Hold On, Let Go," includes these lines:
40 long years
in that wilderness of sin
if Jesus brings you water, children,
jump right in
I'm gonna hold on
a little bit longer
waitin for you
(These are Derek's lyrics—he holds the rights to them. Thanks, Derek, for letting me quote them.)
As always, Derek's music combines rough and tender bluesy melodies with moving and intelligent Jesus-centered lyrics. Watch their site for news of their new CD and maybe for more of the words to Tom Fox's song. [Update: An mp3 of the song can be played or downloaded here.]
I wanted to write a few words about the wavelet of interest in "manliness" but I've got jet lag. Manly or not, it's time for sleep.