BACK TO THE FUTURE?
Yesterday’s Protests: Hope Erupts on the Streets of DC.
There is no question that, for me, large-scale street protests around the country are nostalgia trips for me. Since I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1965 I participated in God knows how many such demonstrations. I lost count somewhere around 1975. You keep hearing that there were “thousands” of protestors here in DC as well as in NYC, Boston, San Francisco and other cities around the country. But “thousands” sounds like a tally of the number of folks lined up at the front doors of Walmart or Best Buy at 6:00 AM on Black Friday.
Now I can’t accurately estimate how many people attended DC’s Sharpton organized protest yesterday, and, since some conservative House or Senate member back in the mid-90’s complained that the National Park Service had either overestimated the attendance at a liberal demonstration or underestimated the same at some conservative gathering, (I forget which it was) neither does the Park Service any more. Or at least they don’t publish their estimates. (An as an aside, when we have spy satellites which can clearly photograph 6” objects from 20,000 miles up, how hard can it be to estimate crowd numbers?)
I would not be in the least surprised if the number was 50,000 and would go so far as to say it could approach 100,000. Be that as it may, what impressed me most was not the number of people (there were LOTS!) but the makeup of the crowd. As I surveyed the crowd I saw that the average age was fairly young. It wasn’t the Baby Boomers, like me, who took to the streets as we did back in the 60’s and 70’s. This one facet gave me a rise since given the vast numbers of folks who have been protesting around the country over the past couple of weeks, I was heartened that it seems that the country’s mid-to-late-twenty-somethings are finally engaged in attempting to influence public policy. Other than the OWS protests and those few demonstrations directed against the World Bank and the IMF, young Americans – perhaps too dependent on social media – have not been out in America’s streets. (Let’s not forget that while “social media” played a role, it was the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians out in the streets battling the Army and the police that actually brought Mubarak down). Now, it appears, young people are engaged and I couldn’t be happier.
This finding out who was participating, was my prime reason for attending the Rev’s protest although, as you would expect, I support the goals the movement. (It’s this reason also, first hand experience, that I attended three Tea Party rallies here as well.) But what nearly brought me to tears was the feeling flowing through this mass of humanity. Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, young and old were united by the idea that we are one nation all striving to force “us” to live up to our stated, if unfulfilled, ideals. These are the self-same ideals – equal justice for all, equal opportunity for all, due process under the law for every citizen, and most of all that we are all in this together – that motivated us Baby Boomers back in the day as well.
It was a very good day.