I'd originally had a meeting scheduled for this weekend, and then a mild flu, so I didn't pay much attention to plans for the anti-surge demonstration until Friday. When I was feeling more human I saw that Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings had proposed a brunch at Union Station before the march, and decided to connect with that.
Hilzoy is as impressive in person as she is in prose, and more mischievous. She has a trick of vibrating her eyebrows up and down that is not at all like Groucho Marx's eyebrow waggling, and even less like Mr. Spock's raised brow, but just as distinctive. Where Groucho is inviting third parties to appreciate the salacious aspects of whatever remark he's just made, and Spock is signaling his disbelief of whatever remark he's just heard, Hilzoy's eyebrow vibration accompanies what would otherwise be deadpan humor, inviting us into the joke. Her Obsidian Wings posts show her as someone of vast unrelieved patience and forbearance, and having met her I believe the patience and am glad to see it relieved by a wicked wit.
I liked the other folks quite a bit too. I also felt really out of place. Two of them were organizers of D.C. Drinking Liberally, and talked about primaries and politicians I hadn't heard of. That's work I think is necessary and useful. (This is a change from my radical youth.) But it's still as far from my style as carrying giant puppets in a demonstration would be to most of the Obsidian Wings folks. (I seem to recall a comment thread where folks allowed as how carrying giant puppets was perhaps not so entirely silly as it might appear at first glance, but can't find it at the moment.)
Although maybe it's not exactly style – I've been a delegate to three Virginia Democratic conventions, in 1972 for Shirley Chisholm's presidential campaign, and twice for Jesse Jackson – a far cry stylistically from giant puppets. But you perceive that these were lost causes (though I think I actually convinced myself that one of the Jackson candidacies had a chance). Maybe the difference is in perspective – there is work to be done, good work, that has some chance of achieving benefits and averting horrors for people today, or this year, or this decade; and there is work to be done which is much more like rolling the dice, hoping to aid extraordinary changes in a barely imaginable future. For whatever reason I seem to be temperamentally more attracted to rolling the dice for the extraordinary than to working for incremental improvements. (Though let us note, as evidence of the gods' atrocious sense of humor, that in fact most of the good I do in the world consists of helping one woman stay alive and connected to the Internet – about as far from grand Utopian dice rolling as you can get.)
After brunch, we went to the rally and indulged in the usual milling around – near the speakers we could hear the speeches but not each other; further away the speeches were mumbled incoherencies but we could talk. Manny and Naomi were there with their three-year-old and ten-month-old; Naomi had been to a Vietnam protest when she was three herself. She'd come out even with a knee injury because she wanted to have an answer if/when her kids asked "And what did you do, back then, to help?" Hilzoy suggested that we levitate the Pentagon while waiting for the march to begin (and vibrated her eyebrows). Some of Keith's friends had even made a puppet (though a small one) – a shark labeled "Iraq" that was devouring a small figure with Bush's face pasted on. Finally we headed out to find the PDA table. (After some confusion of PDA with "personal digital assistant", and some jokes about "public display of affection" it was revealed that PDA is a group of Progressive Democratic Activists.) We never got there, and as the march finally headed out we all got separated.
I wandered around for a bit, and finally heard some drums that sounded like the Rhythm Workers' Union mothership – a rolling cart with an assortment of drums, some big, some small, that has enlivened many a DC demonstration. I figured that any other stray Pagan Cluster folks would head that way too. And indeed they did: I first ran into a man I've met before but whose name has dropped out of the sieve that is my memory, and then into my friends Marcos, Ruby and Lev. They were pushing a giant Goddess puppet.
Lev and Ruby are people I admire tremendously, who have rolled the dice with their lives with enormous courage, have worked harder to increase the odds of extraordinary good fortune arriving for the next generation (or the next, or the next) than almost any people I know. These last months they've been doing their own incremental work of keeping a loved one alive in a life worth living. It was good to see them, good to take a hand at pushing the Goddess puppet down the street next to a good drum rhythm. Much more fun than chanting "Hey hey. Ho ho. All bad things have got to go!" at the prompting of a bullhorn. Much more fun than attending a Virginia State Democratic convention. (Shudder.) Maybe it's a matter of style after all.
Eventually I also got separated from Marcos, Ruby, and Lev. I made my way back to Union Station, and got in line for the train. An unsteady woman and her friend were behind me, and the friend asked me to carry the unsteady woman's heavy bag, since the friend couldn't go onto the platform. The unsteady woman asked me to marry her, and her friend said "Don't pay her any mind" and mouthed "She's drunk." The bag was very heavy indeed, and on the way the drunk woman rescinded her offer of marriage: "Probably," she said, "you're Jewish. Probably you don't drink." Ah well. Sometimes the people we do our incremental work for turn out to be drunken anti-Semites. Sometimes the dice come up snake eyes. It's still the only game in town.