I was 18-years old when I went to my first mass demonstration—one of the early marches on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. It was exciting, thrilling, important-feeling and bit scary when tear-gassed in a restaurant. But it felt like the right place to be with the right people for the right reason. Wanton death and destruction in the name of freedom was not, is not and never shall be a good idea. And so we said with our presence out on the streets.
And again today, marching with the school contigent at the Gay Pride Parade. An especially festive atmosphere with the overturn of Prop 8 and DOMA and the next step toward allowing people to define themselves without shame and to love whom they choose and to be accorded the same rights in a loving relationship as anyone else. Simple, yes?
In-between 1969 and today, I spent some time on the streets protesting nuclear weapons proliferation, the Desert Storm war, the war in Iraq and other death-dealing/ environment crushing/ freedom-limiting ventures. I also took to the streets in San Francisco’s Carnaval Parade, Day of the Dead Parade, Halloween and other festive ventures celebrating—well, celebrating the fun of celebration! With music, dance, and fellowship. (And some of the most memorable festivals have been in places like India, Bali, Japan, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, Spain.)
Of course, I also enjoy a quiet evening at home, a meeting in a café with a friend, an intimate concert in a cozy jazz club or political discussion around a dinnertable. But whether protesting a political outrage, celebrating a political victory, joining the fans after a World Series win or simply dancing to bells and drums in full costume, the streets are the place I keep coming back to. We need those moments when like-minded folks join their voices to create a larger presence. It felt like at least a million people lining SF’s Market Street today, cheering in exultation. Exciting!