A Former Radical Goes Back to the Future at the 9/12 March

Not much about my current life looks like anything like the me I used to be -- other than a lingering weakness for retro hippie fashion. Oh, and the skin art now lumping me with tattoo-come-lately Baby Boomers rather than communicating my colorful past.

But the hopeful giddiness I felt last Saturday at the 9/12 Freedom March took me back 40 years. And what I observed -- no matter how ignored or spun by the increasingly irrelevant dinosaur media -- tells me that this spontaneous and improbable gathering of conservatives is just the beginning of a movement that in the end will be as culturally revolutionary as the Woodstock generation.

I’m not coming at this like some dry academic -- tsk-tsking conservatives and pushing moderation -- but as a proud and passionate veteran of the personal-is-the-political generation. My agenda here is to encourage conservatives of all stripes who gathered to speak truth to power in Washington and across the country last Saturday, last month, and last summer. My message is to keep up the good work. Don’t listen to what they say. Keep informed. Keep showing up. And watch our numbers grow.

This is just the beginning.

On the morning of September 12, I left for the march with my camera. Since every picture’s worth a thousand words, I thought that would be the easiest and fastest way to communicate what really took place.

But what was going to take place? How many people would show? Though in my gut -- with the latest victories of the new media over the old (Van Jones, ACORN) -- I felt momentum building, I was really just one person going without a group, a strategy, or a plan.

At the Dunn-Loring (VA) Metro station, I noted the nearly-full parking lot -- unlikely on a Saturday -- with many out-of-state cars, many sporting conservative bumper stickers. My hopes began to rise. I was not alone. The platform was filled with people of all ages, some carrying signs. No one quite knew how to ask each other: “Are you going to the march?” But as a reporter, I could and I did.

There was a young couple with three children from Centerville, VA, a middle-aged woman and her mother from Harrisonburg, PA, a couple from Texas -- and many more.

No one I talked to -- on that platform or throughout the day -- had ever been to a protest, march, or demonstration of any kind. No one knew what to expect. All had sacrificed time, energy, and money to come to Washington. All had undertaken this adventure independently with the assumption that they might indeed be the only one showing up.

“But with everything that’s going on, I felt like I had no choice but to come,” was a theme I heard echoed throughout the day.

All seemed informed and concerned, but cheerful and optimistic. I knew this feeling from before -- it begins when you move from concern to action. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, and as I discovered on September 12, particularly beautiful in people whose orientation toward their country is not revolution but recovery.