I attended two predictable events today. First, a large peace rally. Unlike the small ones, it had speakers, booths, and hard feelings. On one sign a picture of President Bush was covered by a swastika; in another, he was shown alongside Nazi war criminals. I saw posters screaming, “We are Fucked,” and “Fuck the USA.” “One World Socialism” was touted alongside other liberal causes. Many people had tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks, and freakishly colored hair. After the speakers were done, longhaired men stood in a circle drumming.
I saw only one person who held a pro-war sign. I asked him if he was a veteran. “Special forces,” he said. I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. I tried to engage him in conversation, but he assumed that I too was a veteran, and he wouldn’t speak to me when he learned otherwise. He shouted at the news media; he accused me of blocking his sign; his lips twisted with rage. I moved on. Reuben, a rat-terrier appeared. I don’t know his owner’s name—although she often brings him to my house to play with Baxter—so I call her Mrs. Reuben. Reuben the dog was distressed. “This is his first demonstration,” Mrs. Reuben explained.
What is the good of all this hatred, I wondered. Really, who does it reach? What is the benefit of saying by implication, “I’m for peace, and if you don’t agree with me, I’d just as soon shit on your grave.” As least this was the sentiment that I heard screaming at me from many of the signs and many of the faces. I thought of the French Revolution, and I surmised that, like Robespierre, these people lacked the ability, or even the will, to do anything but destroy.
I saw nothing that I didn’t expect, yet it still depressed me, utterly depressed me, because, as I thought, if so many of the people who are for peace are filled with hatred, where is there room for hope? Where is the rosy glow before the dawn? There is none. It’s all darkness, darkness, and more darkness. I went not to support but to observe, and I had wrongly thought that this would protect me from being so strongly affected.
There were also cops on bicycles and motorcycles, and, a block away, a white van that had Department of Homeland Security on the sides. Brawny, crew-cut men stood near the van. They are all caricatures, I thought—the demonstrators, the cops, the feds…. It’s like a movie set.
I then biked to my mineral club’s meeting and picnic. The new president is only interested in lapidary, and every meeting is devoted to it. This event was supposed to last five hours, but I only stayed an hour and a half—just long enough to eat and socialize before the rock saws and polishers were brought out. People didn’t understand why I was leaving. They wondered (or so I thought) if I was mad. I went out of my way to be nice so as to reassure them.
Two mineral club people had asked me over lunch if I was new to the group. I said that no, I served as the membership officer last year (I didn’t add that I had given oral reports at every meeting). Such is the impression I have made on the Eugene Mineral Club. For two years, I’ve been simultaneously inside and outside. It’s this lapidary thing that pushes me away. So then, why do I go? I go partly for the scant geological knowledge that I receive, and partly because I feel sorry for a club that is dying. I can neither help them nor abandon them.