I almost found myself engaging in that familiar cry myself today (oh, how many times I had!) until I shook my head and realized this wasn’t 1968, it was 2004… not that the hordes streaming around me down Fifth Avenue this afternoon seemed to know or care. The conflation of Iraq and Vietnam was in high gear, the “masses” urging a regime change (in Washington) that would bring our boys home and stop this immoral attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East. Never mind that Kerry has never made remotely clear what he intends to do or that there is an actual fledgling democratic government in place in Iraq, as there never was in Vietnam. I mean what do we know about democracy — we’re the barbarian Americans? Vietnam bad, Iraq bad. C’est simple, n’est-ce pas?
The Korean proprietor of the sandwich shop on Thirty-fifth and Fifth where I stopped in for an egg salad (still the best sandwiches anywhere are in NY) would seem to have agreed, at least on the surface. “Bush dumb,” he grinned, echoing Howell Raines as he banged on the cash register with one hand, while making a thumb’s up with the other. Elsewhere, just as at sixties demonstrations, fringe groups were cashing in on the action. The Chinese Falun Gong, of all things, was the most in evidence, passing out literature the way the Hare Krishnas used to (I didn’t see any of them… kinda miss ’em.) I wonder what the Falun Gongsters really made of the demonstrators. If I see another, I’m going to ask her (most were female). Back where they come from, demonstrators are frequently shot. (Oh, yeah, I forgot. Kent State. We’re bad too. We’re worse. We’re terrible. America bad. Al Qaeda good. Is that okay?)
Here are a few more rough and ready pix. Note the intrusion of the low carb diet craze into the demonstration. Maybe it’s 2004 after all.
Cops were everywhere. It was fun talking to them. One of them said to me, “It’s like fuggin’ 9/11 never happened.” His buddies seemed to agree.
UPDATE: Twilight in the Big City. I’ve just come back from The New Yorker Hotel where I went for my credentials. To get there, I had to go through a subway tunnel because the demonstration, which has become thicker and thicker, blocked 7th Avenue. They were becoming more raucuous too, chanting “The Whole World Is Watching,” the way we did in the old days. The crazy groups were coming out with placards reading “Bush Knew – 911truth.org” and another called “rwor.com”… or something like that… with a huge banner telling us to “Think Revolution!” (in 2004? It is so,if you think so).To say it weirded me out would be an understatement. I was considering designing a new T-shirt to wear: “Don’t Shoot Me! I’m a Boomer!”
Fortunately, I ran into my friend Michael Barone, one of America’s best and sanest journalists, on the street. He was like a port in the storm. Michael and I swapped stories of our old protest days (Michael was against the Vietnam War, but wasn’t a heavey protester), then scratched our heads about the present avatar. Michael, also a boomer, was wryly hoping for the demise of our generation. Then he went on his way for his credentials. I forgot to tell him that I had just read his new book Hard America, Soft America. For those of you who haven’t, it’s excellent, quite apropos of the current situation.