The Common Good
June 2007

Nor-easters for Peace

by Ed Spivey Jr. | June 2007

3,000 coffees to go please. And one decaf.

Editors' Note: Despite the fact that it's early summer and you're probably sitting on your deck wishing you had applied sun screen, try to imagine it's winter again and you're marching in the nation's capital against the war and there's a blinding winter storm. Not working? Okay, try this: Fill a bucket with ice water and stick your bare foot in it. Okay, now the other foot. THAT's what it was like, only colder. And wetter.

Filled with the Holy Spirit—who had already performed the miracle of ending a worship service on time, despite the participation of more than a dozen major religious leaders (you know how they can talk)—we walked out of the Washington National Cathedral and into the path of a blinding winter storm that I would have described as cold and bitter, had I been able to make my mouth work.

At this point, instead of marching to the White House, I felt God was calling us to march someplace closer, such as a nearby coffee shop, where we could get something hot. ("Could I get 3,000 regular grandes to go, please, and one espresso mocha skim latte with two vanilla shots. It's for a major religious leader.") But before I could share this divine revelation, the marchers had embarked on the three-and-a-half mile walk to the home of the president, despite the fact that the vice president's house was only a couple blocks away. (And he had coffee.) I tried to mention this, but I was swept up by the surge.

Speaking of the vice president, I finally understood what he meant when he patiently explained he wasn't lacking in patriotism when he avoided the draft during the Vietnam War. He just had "other priorities." I felt the same way when I decided not to join a couple hundred of my friends this evening who were getting arrested at the White House. Having been jailed several times for acts of civil disobedience, I felt my solidarity was better expressed in my prayerful support. So as we marched I kept a keen eye out for a diner with a large window where I could sit and express that support, mainly by waving, prayerfully.

But on we walked, thousands strong, and I felt if we wanted to we could just SHUT DOWN THIS TOWN, BABY! Well, maybe just a few blocks, but we would SO OWN THOSE BLOCKS! At this point, a colleague (Jack, who will remain nameless) came up to me and said with a mocking laugh, "You look like a Russian peasant woman." Instead of pointing out the insulating advantages of multiple layers—not to mention the good sense of the Soviet Bloc women to whom he alluded—I chose a more direct and slightly less-Christian remark about his stupid-looking hat. Then, as if sin carries its own immediate punishment, I stepped in a hole filled with water.

This was the first of a series of potholes I would step in during the march, which I thought I had prepared for by wearing brand-name storage bags over my socks. After the third hole I recalled that the box had no warning against using the product for winter peace marches. This will no doubt be corrected once they receive my letter.

In this march we were trying to send a message of peace to George Bush, a man that many analysts say is the worst president in the last century, and maybe even in this century, although it's too early to tell. Newt Gingrich could give him a run for his money, since he's gotten an early endorsement from conservative power-broker James Dobson. (Dobson is currently deciding which thrice-divorced non-Mormon best represents American family values.)

George Bush has failed despite the fact that, as president, he only has one job: to protect the Constitution. This should be easy, since the Constitution is already well-protected downtown at the National Archives. It's behind thick glass in this big metal case and there are all these guards standing around looking like they'd just love to break the monotony over your head. (For some reason, the Magna Carta is also there, although it's not, technically, an American document. I think it's there mainly to show school kids the actual thing that they got wrong on their world history test. Maybe now they'll remember.)

Anyway, we PUSHED on, empowered by a Constitution that gives us the right to assemble and speak out freely against, in this case, winter. We marched emboldened by our convictions against the war, and inspired by the words and witness of Jesus the Peacemaker who, it must be admitted, lived in a more reasonable climate.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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