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Izzy and friends go to a peace rally
By Izzy Lyman
Amherst, Massachusetts - Three of us crashed the "Respecting Our Neighbors" rally on the Town common. I was wearing the camouflage jacket and a N.Y. Yankees baseball cap. Dan, my college-aged hockey player son, and Larry Kelley, a karate instructor, were my accomplices.
We left after fifty minutes.
The rally, which was really a 'stop war and end racism' whine fest, was sponsored by the usual suspects from the Men's Resource Center of Western Massachusetts, Everywoman's Center, the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Society, Family Diversity Projects, and Not in Our Town. It was held to support Arab-Americans and "others who have felt unsafe" since the terrorist hijackings.
We tried, as John Lennon suggested, to give peace a chance.
We really did.
We didn't stomp on the small card that a neo-hippie from the Traprock Peace Center handed us which urged, "NO Star Wars!"
We didn't giggle when a woman named Morningstar and a man named Moonlight
We didn't do more than roll our eyes when a Westfield State College professor named Tom Gardner said, "Activists can age, but they can't afford to retire."
We tried not to groan at the homemade signs like, "Hate crimes are a form of terrorism" and "Mediation Not Domination."
We didn't go "Oh, please" when Amherst Select Board Chair Carl Seppala, a local politician, noted that we cannot advocate democracy for the world while being intolerant of others in our town.
We didn't yell, like knee-jerks, "Nuke the Taliban" when a lady from Ghana, who counsels public school children, tsk-tsked the tyke who penned this line in poem: "We've got to have revenge."
But when Massachusetts State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst) said she saw "lots of faces I see at every good cause," Larry broke the spell.
"Yeah, a collection of sixties rejects," he sputtered.
"Do you think the crowd would join in if we started singing 'God Bless America'?" Larry wickedly asked.
Dan chimed in, "There's not one flag here."
Not to mention a dearth of Arab-Americans.
But back to Dan's observation. Among the crowd of several hundred or so Sandalistas, no one was waving an American flag or sporting red, white, and blue paraphernalia. Very significant.
See, three weeks ago, the Amherst Select Board received national media attention when they voted, on the eve of September 11, to limit the flying of twenty-nine American flags to six annual holidays only. These public officials were deluged with mail and calls from all over the country, protesting their decision. Because many critics pointedly told Town Manager Barry Del Castilho and the Select Board to 'love it or leave it,' additional cops were stationed at Town Hall.
Several of those politicos, who "voted against the flag," were at this gathering, as were University of Massachusetts professors, public school employees, and other activists-on-the-dole. The cozy alliance between local honchos and rally organizers was highlighted by one speaker, from the Men's Resource Center, who effusively thanked "the Town" for its support and for the use of the portable sound system.
The irony didn't escape Larry, Dan, or me. We remembered that these were the same public officials who coldly told a roomful of World War II, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf veterans "no" when these soldiers asked permission to fly additional American flags, for an extended period of time, in their downtown. These were the same unpatriotic pacifists who requested protection by real police officers with real guns because they were frightened by tasteless words in e-mails; the same folks who were now proudly standing at a rally that was a slam against the legitimate use of force for self defense.
Only fools with graduate degrees in places like Amherst and Cambridge and Berkeley and Madison don't understand that "to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace," as George Washington counseled. Only childish leftists believe that holding candlelight vigils, reading poetry, and singing songs will deter fanatical killers from preying upon the innocent and discourage President Bush from protecting the nation's borders.
Sometimes you 'stop war and end racism' with a B-52 bomber and lots of Marines. Let's roll.
Izzy Lyman, author of The Homeschooling Revolution, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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