The bottom really does seem to be falling out of US public support forthe Bush War in Iraq. Today’s papers, as expertly digested by DanFroomkin here , show the degree to which a deep and increasing popular anger with thewar has been welling up among the citizenry and that is now– finally– starting to drive events in Congress. Note, for example, this report in today’s NYT about increasing antiwar sentiment in a conservative part of Pennsylvania… or this report about the tepid response the Prez himself got from soldiers in Fort Benning, Georgia… or this report about the disillusionment of US soldiers on the fonrt-line in Baghdad…
I travel a lot around the US and the world. But my home-town is Charlottesville, Virginia, a tiny speck of “blue” in what used to be a pretty red state until George Allen’s macaca moment came along last summer. (We showedhim, eh!)
Every Thursday when I’m back home in C’ville I take part in our town’s weekly antiwar vigil/demonstration . On some occasions over the past three years there have been just three or four of us gathered on the windy street corner outside the federal courthouse building, valiantly holding up our signs that urge the many passing motoriststo “Honk 4 Peace”.
Throughout 2006, we saw a steady increase in the numbers of motorists responding.But still, for the most part, there were just between three and seven ofus standing there for that one hour per week. (On occcasion I have stoodalone, at least for a short time; and several times just two of us have beenstanding there for 15 minutes or so till someone else came to join us.)
On Thursday last week, there were about 15 people.
Then yesterday, as my doughty co-demonstrator Jane Foster, age 82, and I approached the corner at 4:30 p.m. with our bundle of signs, we were surprised to see people waiting around there for us to come. People whom, for the most part, we didn’t know. “What the– ?” I wondered as I rushed over to them with the signs. People grabbed them from the pile. Soon, we ran out of signs. People kept coming… Mothers with kids in strollers. Middle-aged couples coming in from out of town. A bunch of people from our Quaker meeting… My dear friend Catherine Peaslee, age 84. (She and Jane have both been stalwart demonstrators over the past year. What incredible role models!) I saw people there I hadn’t seen at demonstrations since the big ones we held before the invasion of Iraq– and, as I said, lots of folks I’d never seen before.
The “front” side of our demonstration stretched out, facing the traffic, along that one curb outside the courthouse and stretching a long way down the sidewalks both ways.
The honking was incredible. Definitely the most ever. We’ve been working hard to “train” the drivers on this for more than three years now. I was soproud of their response yesterday! Everyone who was anywhere near our busyintersection during that hour would have gotten a very strong antiwar message…and that includes the occupants of some 5,000 or 7,000 vehicles driving through. As usual, we got a particularly strong response from African-Americandrivers, and women. But all sorts of demographics were honking yesterday,including the (white, male) drivers of some enormous trucks, people in expensivecars, drivers of old jalopies crammed with a bunch of co-workers going homeafter a long shift, etc, etc.
Many people wanted to lean long and hard on their horns. Others did a defiantlittle thum-a-thum-thum. At times it built up into a broad, glorious concertof varied rhythms and tones.
I admit that the back side of our demonstration had a bit of a carnival atmosphere as old friends saw each other and went over to hug and say hi. We old-timers had been totally unprepared for this and asked each other in amazement: “What happened?” The general answer was twofold. Number one: the totally unconvincing nature of the Prez’s speech the night before. Number two: one of our people, Chip Tucker, had listed our weekly demonstration onthe website of Moveon.org, and several of the new people had seen it there and come along.
In retrospect, I wish we had done more to follow up on and consolidate some of the new energy we saw there. (We should try to be a lot more intentional about this next week.)
But it really was an amazing experience… And taken with everything else that’s been happening in the country in the past 10 weeks it helped convince me that Bush has now, fairly definitively, lost the battle for public support of his Iraq war.
(A longer version of this post, with more analysis, is cross posted at my main blog, Just World News.)