Today is the actual 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, a war that is now considerably longer than World War II.
Today we should pause to remember in a special way the nearly 4,000 American troops who have died in this war. Nearly 30,000 have suffered wounds, many serious. As we remember these military men and women, we should offer thanks and gratitude to them for doing some of the hardest, most dangerous work imaginable on behalf of our nation.
Today has also been a day of protest against the war. I came face-to-face with the protest when I was downtown this morning for a meeting and discovered that I could not get my car out of the underground garage on L Street because anti-war protesters had shut down the intersection of 17th and L. A group of people draped in black and wearing masks had chained themselves together and sat down in a circle in the middle of the intersection, and then they lay down as if dead, symbols of so many war victims.
I took a few minutes to watch the protest and reflect on how the years have changed all of us.
35 years ago I might have been out there with them. My introduction to war protests came in my freshman year at Trinity when my friends and I took part in the massive Mayday demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and as the years went on we often found ourselves marching at one rally or another. Age has a considerable taming effect! Today, for a brief moment, I even found myself annoyed that I could not get out of the parking lot to go from one meeting to another; then, a minute later, I found myself somewhat wistful to realize that I am beyond my street-protest days.
I looked around at the people gathered on the corners to watch the drama as the police circled the masked-and-hooded- and-chained- together group of protesters sitting in the middle of the normally busy intersection. The crowd was fairly small and remarkably quiet, save for the people who were obviously part of the protest chanting or banging drums. I did observe a few people who might have been about my vintage also looking a bit wistfully at the daring younger protesters sitting on the street. My other observation was that the police appeared remarkably relaxed. Perhaps that’s just a superficial glimpse, and I suspect things got more heated as the day went on, but at 10 am the scene was more ballet than clash.
On the news tonight the biggest news about the protests today seems to be that they caused a lot of traffic jams. People are rushed, stressed, harried and hurried; we don’t have time for a war protest!
Stop. Think. Listen. Act. We have to make time. What is wrong with all of us that we’re not out there in solidarity with the cause of peace?
This war must end. The lives of so many American military personnel, Coalition personnel, Iraqi citizens and others should not continue to be drained away by a war whose purpose increasingly is obscure.
The young people who sat in the middle of 17th and L and elsewhere today challenge us to rise up out of our middle-aged lethargy to be more pro-active about demanding that our leaders, and those who aspire to lead, map out the path to peace.