On to Washington to moon our ‘new’ president

Well, our president gets re-inaugurated Thursday in Washington, D.C. He is billing it as a celebration of American democracy. George calls his election a “mandate.” Compared to the 2002 election, I guess it is. I hope to be there for his drive down Pennsylvania Avenue.

On Thursday, there will be protesters along the parade route, most of whom will stand and turn their backs on him as he drives by. I hope to show him my backside as well. This president does not deserve a celebration, especially as 150,000 of our soldiers are under attack in his war in Iraq.

And the party he is throwing is being funded by our tax dollars, but we ain’t invited. No president should ever shut down a whole city for his own private affair, and he’s charging the District of Columbia for his security needs (to the tune of $5 million plus). I’m sure the security forces will try to keep demonstrators away from the festivities, but Pennsylvania Avenue is quite a long drive from the White House to the Capitol, and they can’t turn everyone away.

I have visited Washington, D.C., before, usually related to a demonstration, environmental forum, urban ministry seminar, or nuclear power plant hearing. It’s a great city whether you love politics, good food, weird shopping, or the regular touristy things like museums and theater. On almost every street corner, there’s a statue of some general or politician, but every now and then you find a peace activist or social reformer. The most moving area of our nation’s capital, in my humble opinion, is the Lincoln Memorial.

As you climb the stairs and say hello to Abraham, you can find the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is just a few hundred yards away, and even though there are gnarled old vets selling buttons, once you get up to the wall itself, it becomes a tremendously moving experience.

I wasn’t too impressed with the Korean War memorial, but I look forward to seeing it covered in snow. If time allows and I don’t get arrested, I’ll probably visit the new Native American Museum as well as the Holocaust Museum. (Funny, you’d think they would have put those two together.)

Washington has a wide variety of restaurants. It was there I ate my first Ethiopian meal, where the napkins are edible. The bread looks like a napkin and has a similar texture, like that of a wet rag; you break off a piece and use it to scoop up the different piles of food. I enjoy Ethiopian honey wine as well.

Protesters who are not coming to the demonstration but wish to show their disapproval are planning marches in Chicago and Madison. You’ll have to go on the Internet to find them.

Rockford’s wonderful peace group still meets every Monday, 7:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St. On Monday, Jan. 24, we will hear about “The Disappearing Rain Forest,” and on Jan. 31, there will be a program about Cuba and trips to that embargoed country.

They (P&J) are planning a regional peace conference for Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Rockford College’s Burpee Center. (The Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom will co-sponsor this event.) A demonstration against the war will follow, as that will mark the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still mourning the loss of John Kerry. I think he’d have worked to get us out of Iraq, but I’m sure he’d have shown more support for the troops and got them home sooner.

I hope our president will be more of a friend to the people and not to his special interests. Fat chance.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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