This is What Democracy Looks Like: Washington Protest January 27, 2007 (3)

Dear Steven:

Here are my reflections on the demonstration in DC: Please put them on your blog if you have room.

Love, Jeff (Parson)

I had planned to meet my old college buddy, Steven Marx, in SF, managing to get a seat on his flight to DC for the major peace demo on Jan 27. The only problem was I had promised myself I would mail out over 200 copies of my CD of 17 original songs for peace and justice, “The Baby and the Bathwater.” (available on It was important to get them to radio stations before the official release date and I was cutting it very close. If I waited ˜til I returned from DC, I wouldn’t make it. Feeling almost as exhausted as the many printer cartridges I had gone through, I finally accomplished my first goal, but it was going on 10 pm and I had a five-hour drive ahead of me. Gulping a large green tea, I headed down the highway only to arrive sleepless in SF with insufficient time and stamina to meet Steven. Damn it! I had stood up one of my best friends! Not a very peaceful way to begin the journey!

Sadly resigned to this failure, I shifted my focus to my next scheduled meeting, with my 17-year old daughter, Dakotah, a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College. We connected at an international youth hostel, where many other protesters were beginning to arrive and the mood was of growing excitement, determination, even apprehension. What would it be like? There were many college age activists and veterans but there were also lots of older folks and people of diverse backgrounds and occupations not normally associated with peace demonstrations, such as George, a former commercial pilot from Spokane, Washington. As we traded predictions on the coming event I had the sense it was going to be huge. Vince, a parade marshal with a prominently displayed arm-band warned of protest bashers who might try to start fights. Dakotah and I agreed we would try to avoid being arrested. She had to return to school. I needed my passport for an up-coming trip and didn’t want to lose it on some hoked-up charge.

I recalled being jailed for 3 days in DC in 1971 for “unlawful assembly,” when Attorney General John Mitchell and his goons rounded up thousands of us who were peacefully gathered in front of the “Justice” Dept. In a moving speech, Tom Hayden had convinced my girl friend and me (and who knows how many others) to stay in DC until the war was over. “Let’s shut down DC!” (We almost did.) “No more business as usual!” I remember being defensively armed with a gas mask, which was ripped from my hands by a cop who simultaneously kicked me in the shins as he threw me on the bus to be carted off to a temporary jail (a stadium, since there were so many of us). Where are all those today willing to be arrested to stop the war? Come to think of it, I did hear a similar account this time by a young woman who had just been release from jail after she and her street-theater friends were arrested for “unlawful assembly” for refusing to leave the area around the wading pool in front of “our” Capital building; but this was, apparently, a hand-full of people compared with the massive arrests in ’71. Have we been pacified by TV (I rarely watch it) and by the repressive tactics of our fascist “leaders?” Is there less overt resistance because there’s no draft today? Martin Luther King was murdered”clearly an inside job–but we still have Tom Hayden, bless him, and he’s still active and still quite the tactician.

I heard Tom speak at the impressive Busboys and Poets Tavern (14th and U st) on Sunday. We need to focus on bringing down the “pillars of war,” he said, including for the most part the corporate media and the congress people of both parties who are still underwriting the war”those I refer to in one of my songs as “the Congress of Cowards.” I wanted to give Tom Hayden a CD as a token of appreciation. (I had met him at the WTO protest in Seattle and had thanked him for inspiring me in ’71, but now I wanted him to hear my songs forged in similar fires of outrage over injustice and war.) As he slipped away, I had to settle for trading Holly Near my CD for one of hers; but after hearing her powerful, righteous voice, I was more than happy with this exchange.

Dakotah and I marched on Sat. with the most vocal college students, who carried large banners and bull horns and led many catchy rhythmical chants. Prior to this we heard moving speeches by Maxine Waters, Dennis Cucinitch, Jessie Jackson and other brave politicos; and welcome, passionate exhortations by actors Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and, perhaps most powerful of all, Tim Robbins, who, bravely, echoed the ubiquitous cries for impeachment. It was very affecting to share all this with my daughter Dakotah, with whom I also share loves of art, literature, philosophy and music, while at the same time it’s painful to realize that, despite the large span of our ages, the struggle for peace and justice is still the same. When will we ever learn?

On Monday I went to Congress, this time armed only with my CDs, although I had fantasized about bringing my guitar and singing “Congress of Cowards” and “My Government Is Acting Like A Terrorist” directly to congress people. In the hostel, I had met a contingent of women activists from Texas, some of whom had met and protested with Cindy Sheehan at Crawford Texas, Compared to these folks, I felt woefully unprepared. They had lists of all the politicians who are up for reelection in 2007 and planned to leverage them with this information. These folks had done their homework!

Accepting the fact that songwriting is my strong suit, I vowed to give away, trade, and sell as many CDs as I could. After canvassing several other CA representatives, with luke-warm reception, I went to Maxine Waters office, where I was fairly certain I would be well-received. There I met Prof . Paul Jacobs from Tufts University who was preparing to participate in a caucus on the war moderated by Maxine Waters and Lynne Woolsey. Paul kindly offered to accompany me to the caucus, which I had heard about and was hoping to attend. The meeting promised to include speeches by many authors of recent books on Iraq, most of them, of course, highly critical of the war. Conversing in the labyrinthian hallways and elevators on the way to the meeting, Paul and I discovered that we both have daughters studying at the University of North Carolina, both in the same field of study, sociology/anthropology, and both specializing in the same area, Nicaraguan studies! !Que mundo pequeno!

Paul’s book,”Are Americans Becoming More Peaceful,” was perhaps the most optimistic of the works discussed; and it soon became clear that Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsy were perhaps more interested in learning how to convince a sluggish (if not downright cowardly) congress to move against the war and its funding as they were in educating themselves. The awareness with with which they conducted the meeting led me to believe that they had already educated themselves quite well. Now it was a matter of convincing the others.

Of all the works discussed in the caucus, perhaps the most convincing book about the Bushites’ premeditated treachery, for want of a better word, was “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time” by Antonia Juhasz, an expert on international trade and finance policy who lives in SF and worked for congressman John Conyers.

For me, talking to the secretaries and pages of congress people was more sobering and depressing than talking to the congress people themselves. As a rule, while their bosses tried to seem upbeat positive, their employees reiterated that the numbers just don’t add up to stop the funding. Americans may have become more peaceful, but, sadly, their leaders haven’t.

I’m dubious, worried about Iran and depressed about the incessant deaths and maimings of innocents as well as the loss American lives, the psychological trauma to surviving vets, and the continued strangle-hold on the middleast. Our government has got to be made not just to bring the troops home but also to disassemble our bases, return control of the oil to the Iraqis and make reparations. “Only then, ” as one US soldier against the war put, “can we save the soul of America.”

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