Local voters rejected a county income tax in November only to have county commissioners authorize it this week. Today, I attended a protest in front of city hall. Hundreds of motorists honked in support, but none offered to stand in the rain with us. One yelled (humorously, I supposed), “Get a job!” to which someone of our group yelled back, “That’s the problem—we have jobs.”
I hate standing on a street corner holding a sign. At first, I assumed a deadpan expression simply because I didn’t know what else to do. After awhile, I thought I might be more useful if I smiled and waved. I could do the latter easily enough, but I was in no mood for the former.
Eugene being Eugene, there was another protest across the street (the city hall, the courthouse, and the federal building are on adjacent blocks), this one against the war. I noticed three men with a Marine Corps banner approaching the peace activists, and I wondered if they were for or against the war. I suspected they were for it, because they looked really pissed-off. Sure enough, they placed themselves between the peaceniks and the street, willfully obscuring the signs of the former. One of the Marines screamed that anyone who opposes the War in Iraq shows contempt for every Marine who ever died in any battle of any war (he then listed a dozen or more battles). I was appalled by his logic, and even more appalled when the leader of my group yelled back, “We are with you and the United States Marine Corps, and not with those guys behind you there.”
“Wait just a minute here!” I said to myself, but I held my peace because I didn’t want to take energy away from the protest I had come to support. When the Marines crossed to our side of the street, I worried that the pro-war people and the anti-tax people would look like one big happy family, but I couldn’t think of anything to do about it. When I could stand the situation no longer, I yelled to the people on the other corner, “I hate the damn war. We never should have never gone there in the first place, but now that we’re there, we should come home yesterday.” The people on my side ignored me, and the heavy rain and traffic noise kept the people on the other side from hearing me, so I crossed over. They welcomed me warmly, but I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want my anti-tax placard to dilute their protest.
In less than an hour, all three protests disbanded, because the rain was drenching us and destroying our signs. On one side of the street, I had volunteered to gather signatures for an anti-tax ballot measure, and on the other, I volunteered to attend the next war protest. As with the recent neighborhood war protest, I don’t expect the ones at the Federal Building to shorten the war, but I like the idea of supporting those who support issues that I believe in.