Saturday, November 01, 2008

Civic Duties

Last night was busy with public affairs. I attended the weekly vigil for peace downtown. Later in the evening, I exercised my franchise when I walked to the ballot drop box at the fire station around the corner. The evening’s events pretty much summed up my philosophy these days. The 2008 election is over—my vote is cast—but my commitment to economic justice and non-violence will be as active tomorrow as it was yesterday.

Of course, the election isn’t actually over; we still have a few more days of ads, phone calls and media attention yet. And the aftermath could offer some ugly surprises. No one in 2000 expected the Florida clusterfuck and Republican strong-arm tactics (certainly not the first but surely the most public of the schemes that turned them into Rethuglicans). But Florida would have been an interesting sideshow if the election had not been so close, if nearly half of the American electorate had not deluded itself into believing that CheneyBush and his cabal were either compassionate or conservative. Same with Ohio in 2004. Supposedly, this election won’t have that problem because polls show a substantial Democratic win. I hope that’s true but I won’t rest easy or celebrate until I see results on Tuesday.

For the most part, I can ignore the hoopla. I don’t have a TV and listen to mostly to community and internet radio so I don’t bet the barrage of ads I hear people complain about. I get snippets in the news but they are not all that intrusive or and madding. (Turn off the TV, people, and virtually all the noise goes away! Read a book.) Washington votes by mail so I don’t even have to congregate at a public place festooned with signs placed at a pre-marked distance from the voting booths. I’ve already done my serious thinking about candidates and issues. We have an extremely close governor’s race—a grudge re-match between a Democratic incumbent and the Republican she defeated by 133 votes and three court challenges in 2004. My Washington political history is sketchy but I don’t think a Republican has been governor in a couple of decades, which makes me think that a big Obama vote will help the our incumbent. I would like that.

The Friday peace vigil was, as always, fun. Not a lot of folks turn out—maybe 15 altogether--but most of us are regulars and about half are the band. Yes, we have a regular group of musicians who are part of our assembly and give the affair a festive, enthusiastic feel. The line-up varies: last night we had a trumpet, soprano and tenor saxophones, trombone and various percussion, including a good drummer. Their repertoire is limited and they’re not always quite together but they add a lot of sound to our presence. When they are together, they really cook! The rest of us dance and wave signs at the rush hour traffic and generally have a good time.

Across the street is an equally dedicated regular group of,,,I’m not sure what to call them. They call themselves Patriots but I think I have an equal claim to that title. Support the Troops, maybe, but I support the troops by insisting that they not be wasted in ill-thought foreign interventions that do not—I repeat, do not—protect this country in any way commensurate with their sacrifice. Pro-War? Anti-peace? I don’t want to sound snide because I don’t doubt or question their motives. I just don’t know how to reasonably characterize them. They usually number about four or five, mostly regulars. So regular that some evenings we exchange “good nights” as we decamp. Last night they were supplemented by a mother with a McPalin sign and her three small daughters waving pom-poms in rhythm to our music, which at the moment was a version of “Tequila” with the shouted tag line “Impeach him!” I don’t think they heard that part. A couple of Obama signs made their way through the vigil but I think they were just part of mobile hoopla on the last weekend before election day. I also saw a few Jamie Moore for District Judge farther up on the bridge during the vigil. I suspect I’ll see more in the next few days.

In addition to our vigil and the folks directly across the street, Women in Black hold a silent vigil farther down the block at Heritage Park. Usually about seven to ten women standing silent in a single row. Very somber. A few hold signs. One holds a folded American flag in a display box. I’m pretty sure it came from a military or veteran’s coffin. The women are striking enough on their own but the flag gives them even more gravitas.

Standing vigil at a busy corner on Hallowe’en also made for an interesting evening. My favorite part of vigiling (is that a word?) is watching the people drive by in all their diversity and uniqueness. Lots of folks went by in costume last night, including one cyclist dressed as a bee, complete with yellow-black bustle tipped with a stinger. I saw adult vampires and child fairies, the Bride of Frankenstein and Satan himself in a big white pick-up. Half of our band wore masks or costumes and our gathering was graced by Joe the Plumber, complete with pipe wrench. Maybe, too, the occasion mellowed even the Haters—no one gave me the finger last night.

Watching the dogs go by in the cars with their people is also fun. They look at us even if their driver does not. Unless, maybe, they’re sitting in the driver’s lap. No matter what the people do, I consider their dogs to be strong supporters of peace. It seems only right.

The evening’s weather was subtly glorious. Much of Friday was rainy but the rain ended in the early afternoon, giving way to cloudy skies and occasional sunshine. Still, the air had moisture aplenty and as the temperature dropped, the fog began settling in the low areas of Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet. The fog, autumn colors and crisp air were most pleasant. Later, as I walked to the fire station, fog was everywhere. Not thick but pervasive. Just right for the small groups of trick-or-treaters out in the neighborhood. I passed one group of about six older kids all dressed as delivery persons—DHL, FedEx, pizza and Chinese food. It took a minute for me to figure out what I was seeing but once I figured it out, I thought the concept pretty clever.

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