Like so many Americans, I do feel frustrated, angry, and disheartened with the current government. Many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have shared their sense of betrayal by George W. Bush. For the first time, I decided to actually act, to do something. Writing two letters a week to various politicians and companies didn’t seem like enough. I marched on Washington DC with the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition last October 25th.

Having never done this before, I was hesitant and wary. Getting on a bus of complete strangers to protest our military’s occupation of another nation, what am I doing? I could get arrested. My dad’s going to flip! My students could see me on the television. What am I going to pack? I’ll admit, it was a little thrilling. By Friday the 24th, I was telling everybody about it not to sell my beliefs or obtain a reaction, but simply out of anticipation. Reactions were intriguing.

Most people agreed with my decision to take to the streets, followed by one of myriad excuses for not taking action on their own. Some disagreed. One colleague said, “I fully support American colonialism.” My response to him, and everybody for that matter was, “Well, why don’t you go and counter-protest? Show your support of Bush by protesting us?” The overt voices of Bush supporters the day of the march was minimal. At the very least, friends and family were excited and intrigued with my decision to openly protest.

The bus ride to Washington was tolerable. I began making friends, listening to their stories, their beliefs, their anger.

We arrived at the Washington National Monument shortly before the rally began. For the next two hours we heard a barrage of speeches, songs, and poems from a wide range of groups and individuals including Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton. While listening, my newfound friends and I were given the opportunity to visit the various booths selling and promoting liberal ideologies. One is struck by the creativity and fervor of the homemade signs. One notes, “Read my lips, no more Texans.” Others scream, “Stop The War Economy,” and “The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own,” and the ever present, “Impeach Bush.” People from over forty states participated in Washington D.C. and in California to protest. Visible groups included Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, and ours being Central Ohioans for Peace.

The march began, and what an experience! While marching, signs are waving, marchers chanting, bullhorns blaring, on-lookers smiling in agreement, white men in suits blankly stare from the sidewalk, and I chant on in wonderment. Wondering why it has taken me twenty-eight years to participate in my first vocal protest. Wondering how our government can ignore the people. Wondering how so many citizens, by not doing anything, are effectively condoning our government’s foreign policy of aggression and violation of international law. Wondering how some readers of these words, or some television viewers the day of the march, could consciously declare that the marchers are un-American. Wondering mostly if this march is going to make a difference.

Yes. It made a difference for me. The march effectively propelled me into the world of activism, participatory citizenship, if you will. Did it make a difference for George W. Bush? Probably not, based on the larger, global protests this last spring. Did this march make any difference in the minds and hearts of the American people? I don’t know. But, I will not give up hope. Without hope, there isn’t much else.

On a final note, I would like to write that this experience enabled me to make the acquaintance of some of the nicest, most noble people I have met in a long time. When it was time to collect money at the last minute to tip the bus driver, $100 was raised easily. People shared dried fruit, shared water, shared information, cell phone numbers, poems, writings, and ideas. There was a feeling of openness among a group of potentially very different people.

Whether you are against or for the occupation of Iraq, whether you are for or against a free Palestine, whether you are for or against school vouchers, whether you are for or against public support for the mentally ill, my plead is the same: Get involved. Don’t allow the only political action you take be one vote every four years. Vote every November. Vote in the party primaries, even if you don’t consider yourself a member of either party. Write letters to your federal and state legislators. Find out who your state representative is. (Ohio does have a Senate and House of Representatives.) Go to the website for the Columbus Progressive Alliance and find out about activist movements in central Ohio. Subscribe to a liberal news magazine (The Free Press, The Progressive, The Nation) or even check out from the library a conservative publication (The Weekly Standard). The politicians will continue to listen to corporate lobbyists until the people speak out loud enough and long enough. Turn off your television and turn on your brain. At the very least, you’ll meet new people with similar interests, and you’ll have a lot of fun. Our nation, its people, your friends and neighbor’s welfare is too important. For as much as our politicians want to hold schools, teachers, and parents accountable, it is time to turn the tables and make them accountable.

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