By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Of course, the idea today is to initiate our children gently, to teach them that, to steal a line from Abbie Hoffman, we need to do democracy, while also sending a message to the president that the middle-class families he claims as constituents stand against him and the war. With that in mind, Rae and I have arranged to meet a group of friends here, and before long, we're a tidy little tribe of six grown-ups and seven kids. Yet if Peace on the Beach has a family feeling — everywhere I look, there are children running, playing, scrambling through the playground behind the stage — ultimately, I'm not sure my point is coming across. Sophie, who's 4 and excited about everything, gets into the spirit; sitting on my shoulders, she flashes the peace sign at each person we encounter, and later, with her friends Georgia and Harley, she races across the sand clutching a sign that reads, "Make Love, Not War." Once Noah, however, finishes checking out the crowd, laughing at his favorite protesters and placards (a man wrapped in duct tape, a banner bearing the slogan "We don't want your fucking war"), he pronounces the proceedings "beyond boring" — the ultimate putdown of a disaffected 8-year-old.
The thing is, Noah's right in a lot of ways, although I'd frame my dissatisfaction differently. Peace on the Beach is well, too peaceful, too hippy-dippy, too disconnected from the realpolitik of a bloodthirsty world. All the talk of positive visualization seems ridiculous when you consider the ruthlessness of men like George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, who would laugh at the chanting and the incense, reassured that such ineffectual resistance is no real resistance. Of the afternoon's speakers, only Tom Hayden moves beyond such rhetoric into policy, declaring, "Where are your elected representatives?" — the very question I've been asking for the last 17 months — and suggesting that if the U.S. does invade Iraq, "We will bury Bush politically in 2004." This, I think, is the key to everything, to look at the war in the context of a larger opposition, one that addresses militarism and the economy, individual liberties and civil rights. Whatever happens with Iraq, in other words, we need Bush out of the White House, which is why, for the last several months, I've spent part of every day imagining the president's blank and bewildered face the day after he loses the 2004 election — a positive visualization, I suppose, of another sort.
Still, by the time we get in line to form "The Face of Peace," I can't help feeling as if things have opened up in some small way. Partly, it's the knowledge that, at this very moment, millions of people across the planet are engaged in similar protests, a daisy chain of hope that stretches around the world. And given last week's talk of dirty bombs and duct tape, it's nice to see so many smiles. As columns of people move in serpentine maneuvers to complete Picasso's pattern, the sun breaks through the clouds and casts light on the water, while sailboats tack back and forth off the shoreline, waving in the distance like large white hands. The kids clap and cheer and flash their peace signs. A helicopter swoops in to photograph the image, and the entire assembly stands and applauds. I start to think that perhaps we're onto something, that maybe it will be possible to stop the war. Even Noah cracks a smile.
The Hollywood Blockade: No regime change today(Photo by Ted Soqui)
IT'S NOT EASY BUILDING PEACE SIGNS IN the sand. At Saturday's Peace on the Beach rally in Santa Monica, Annie Taylor and John McQueeney, both 11, had a simple message: "Do not bomb Iraq," words they surrounded with hearts and peace signs. But grown-ups kept walking through their words and ruining their message. They tried to build a wall around their sand sign, but Annie thought they'd never build it high enough for people to notice. They had to dig in again every time some thoughtless tall person didn't watch where he was going. Above them, the adults stood around with signs — "REGIME CHANGE STARTS AT HOME," "PEACE IS PATRIOTIC," "THERE'S A TERRORIST BEHIND EVERY BUSH" — or swayed to the music with their eyes closed and arms held out as if in prayer, or they talked about the film industry.
"Yeah, I'm working on that script. I got some good notes from people. But I'm also working on a video game, and I pitched something to MTV."
"Really? Do they still have pitch-a-pallooza over at the House of Blues?"
This may have been the People's Republic of Santa Monica — and, indeed, it did seem as if all the old hippies had dusted off their batik vests and plumped their beards or braids for the day, plus Tom Hayden and Ron Kovic of Born on the Fourth of Julyfame showed up — but there were also plenty of Starbucks-carrying, cell-phone-talking, jogger-stroller-pushing families with dogs who had come down to the tip of Ocean Park Boulevard for a rousing, if small and relatively celebrity-free rally (compared to the march in Hollywood) on International (Discredit Bush and) Peace Day. There were plenty of long leather coats, nose rings and fading magenta hair, too. That was the men, of course. The women wore long crocheted jackets and nose rings.
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