|On a drizzly morning in May, several thousand activists gathered in Washington DC to march for voting reform. From Alaska to South Florida, participants came to spend time with one another, to share their vision of a restored democracy, and to serve as a visible reminder of stolen election, a broken promise, and a commitment made.
It was a day rich in poignant imagery and small, often unnoticed acts of courage. There were those who struggled uphill on arthritic knees, inching along with the help of canes and walkers. There was the heart-stopping moment when our American veterans took the stage - men and women now fighting against an enemy who is no less dangerous for the want of an assault rifle. There were blurred eyes and tears of rage on the steps of the Supreme Court. There were war whoops and cheers when a contingent from the steel workers union joined the march en route, helping weary protestors carry signs and hoist banners. It was a day when grandmothers brandished bullhorns and youngsters led adults in rally chants. And it was a day when thousands of people who, for months, had laughed and cried
and perspired blood together through the miracle of digitized communications were finally able to put faces to e-mail addresses, and to plan and organize over a cup of coffee instead of a keyboard.
Now the question is, on America's one hundred and twentieth day without a president, did we accomplish what we set out to do? Will guilt-stricken legislators across the country sit down at their desks this week and pen fraud-free election laws? Now that they have seen us in the streets with our outrage and our signs, will they finally dig into those deep pockets and pull out enough money to overhaul faulty balloting equipment in impoverished precincts? Will they, at last, start to investigate Election 2000, and the nationwide reports of roadblocks, discrimination, and corrupt poll workers?
But if you were to ask me if this protesting stuff is nothing but an enormous waste time, I would tell you emphatically "NO!"
Here's why. On the morning after the march, I walked outside my hotel room and found a small group of activists sitting on the front steps sharing a box of pastries and chatting with someone I did not recognize. That someone turned out to be a retired gentleman from Mississippi who had come to Virginia to watch his daughter graduate from college. It turned out that he was really concerned about our current administration and its penchant for playing with nukes and pissing off foreign countries. He was really concerned, but he did not know there was anyone else who felt the same way. He did not know there was a resistance.
Striped shirt: Bob Fertik, co-founder Democrats.com. White t-shirt, backpack, Gore poster: Chip, Legal Scholar, CLG
And how would he? He will not hear about us on the evening news or read about us in the morning newspaper. And we aren't exactly in the Yellow Pages either. Had we not been out there in the community and accessible, wearing our bleeding hearts on our sleeves, our friend from Mississippi would have gone home to brood by himself over that spear-rattling idiot in the White House wondering why in the hell someone did not do something - ANYTHING - to try and stop him. Judging by the number of honks and cheers we received along the march route, I am willing to bet there are a lot more would-be activists out there, too - people who do not realize that they aren't alone; people who do not realize that they can be involved; people who want to resist the coup, but don't know how.
Our movement is multi-faceted and complex. There are letters to be written, congressmen to call, and as much as we hate to admit it, money to be raised. But in the end, what will matter the most is the relationships we form in the real world, both with each other and with our communities. And we can't do that entirely from behind our computer screens. A well-attended protest, the veritable Swiss army knife of the activist's tool kit, does that and more. It educates, it encourages, it builds coalition, and it empowers.
With July 4th, Independence Day, right around the corner, I encourage you to do what our founding fathers did and take it to the streets. November 7th may seem like a distant memory today, but its aftermath will have horrible and far-reaching repercussions if we don't get busy and make ourselves heard.
We, the people of the United States, will not sit down. We will not shut up. But most of all, we will never - must never - forget.
Yours in solidarity, Carol.
Photo, Left to Right: Kris Shapar, Carol Schiffler, Jon Bexell, Mike Rectenwald, and Lori Price: Cheers from the Front!
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