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Article TitleThe Feel of Washington
Author(s)Paul Ideker
SourceThe Manitou Messenger (1916-2014),  No. 20,  Vol.082, November  17, 1969, page(s): 4
Place of PublicationNorthfield, United States
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The Feel of Washington

Author: Paul Ideker

Washington, CPS — America loosened her skirts and sat on the cold ground at the Washington Monument, November 15, as hundreds of thousands of her children came together for three and a half hours of talking, music, and serious reflection on the war in Vietnam. All sorts of people were there: long-haired hippies, middle-aged women wrapped in mink, little children, and young marrieds. This was their resting place after the long march up Pennsylvania Avenue on to the rolling ground of the Monument.

No one seemed the worse for wear. The spirit of the crowd was high. Greetings were shouted back and fourth, and warm hugs and an occasional kiss were exchanged by old friends and new acquaintances alike. A new city was being born in the nation's capital — a city that could easily be called "Peace" or "Love" or maybe just "Together." Although an impressive list of speakers and talent passed on and off the stage, most of the people were there just to be a comment; they had heard the words many times before, but the faces and the friends — they were new and exciting.

Many brought picnic lunches that were spread on blankets or held on laps. Country-fried chicken, hot potato salad, and bagels were all on the menu. Mobe (The Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam), was giving away food from trucks and stands set up around the grounds. They asked for donations if possible, but were willing to make sure that everyone had an apple or orange if he wanted it. Others huddled under blankets or on sleeping bags. Many were too tired to sit through the entire program. They slept out on the grass, rolled up in blankets with only a shaggy head sticking out, confronting the piercing cold. People sat around singing, discussing, or just experiencing the glory of knowing you did not have to be alone for peace.

The Women for Peace were there, mostly well-dressed ladies wearing black and white banners urging "Not our sons — Not their sons;' the Women's International League for Peace from Palo Alto, California, met in one corner of the lawn, holding up their blue and gold banner, greeting fellow demonstrators as they passed by. There were longshoremen and ironworkers from Brooklyn and Yonkers for peace, Political Scientists for Peace, Scientists for Peace, Architects and Engineers for Peace, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for Peace and various union locals gathering their numbers in one corner or another to present a united front for peace.

Everyone had at least one button. If they didn't have them before the rally, there was ample supply once they reached the grounds. Mobe and various commercial salesmen were selling everything from white doves on blue backgrounds to smaller white buttons immortalizing the words of Vice-President Agnew: "Hi — I'm an effete, impudent intellectual snob." Posters, bumper stickers, banners, American flags, special peace banners — all were part of the carnival atmosphere that spread through the rally ground.

Along the fringes of the crowd, which was overflowing into the street about thirty minutes after the rally began, guerilla theater groups were acting out various phases of the government's past misdoinging to the delight of the audience gathered around them. At other spots on the grounds, musicians held impromptu songfests, urging people to sing the songs they knew and hum the songs they weren't sure of.

Although no one would doubt that the majority of the crowd was "on the right side of 30," as Dr. Spock put it, everyone was a little younger for having taken the time to get out into the world and demonstrate what he knew was right. The fear that in the massive demonstration the "wrong side of thirty" contingent would be buried by the young, never really came to pass. In Sunday hats and business suits, the "other side" was certainly out in force for this march.

So many people wanting peace — but so few who would demand it. The crowds were impressive, non-violent, and certainly dedicated to their cause, but you could still see unsureness on some faces as they reflected on the past that had, over the years, led them to this rally. Did they have the right to be demanding world peace from their government? Some of the people were still not sure.

There was nothing new said about peace during the march in Washington, but then there isn't anything really new to say. Yet something very new about the movement was at least in the air. November 15 may come to be known as the last peaceful effort by America's children to keep her from being prostituted beyond redemption. It would be hard to follow an act like the Mobilization's rally and the March Against Death with more talking, walking and singing for peace. Our feet are getting tired — and our words aren't buying peace.

By Paul Ideker College Press Service

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