I never thought I was a peace march kind of guy. I think I was led to believe it wasn't my style; you admit to a few people that Justin Timberlake makes you feel dirty, and suddenly everyone's like, "Um, maybe protest isn't for you." I'm as angry about this current moment in time as anybody else, and as upset by the horrifying cultural evidence of where our country is headed, but sometimes you have to forget all about Lara Flynn Boyle's Golden Globe dress and move on to more important things. Sprinting late to an engagement a week ago, I ran right into the formidable Prayer & Procession for Peace that was making its way with candles down Broadway to St. Mark's Cathedral and joined in.
It's interesting how much media coverage still has outdated notions about who exactly is filling the ranks of the growing peace movement. Television always seems to be subtly trying to convince you that if you dare speak out against the government, you'll be huddling in the rain next to an unwashed anarchist with dreadlocks and no sense of what color looks good on him, but, I swear, even though last week's procession had begun at St. James Cathedral, a lot of the folks looked like they'd just left the Bon. The guy behind me was ordering chicken tandoori take-out over his cell phone; it was a nice contrast to the wincingly off-key leather daddy singing a few yards back. (And, really, if Master wants to hit a few clinkers in the name of a better world, who are you to tell him to tone it down, Boy?)
At first I couldn't figure out who was behind the event with such an array of bodies, but after noting the remarkable organization of it all and the really bad music, I realized it had to be Christian sponsored. (This ragtag congregation was enmeshed in some monotonous chant that went "Peace, peace, peace, we pray-ay-ay for peace"; it sounded like an ironic taunt your childhood dolls would murmur if they came to life and started climbing up onto your comforter with knives.)
I haven't been in a church in so long that when we all entered St. Mark's, I thought cherry pits might spontaneously come burbling up from my gullet, but the inclusiveness of the service shamed me—and should've shamed anyone else who would let their preconceived ideas of who you have to be in order to support peace stand in the way of doing so. The night had a moving sense of community, of purpose. With a genuinely inspirational speech from the Rev. Peter J. Strimer—filled with apt historical references and a request for us to continually startle "the propriety of the nation"—the gathering was a lovely example of what press coverage has not yet granted the movement: focus and diversity. No matter the chicken tandoori, the only mission to be accomplished that night—one sure to be repeated in the weeks and months to come—was to create a spiritual force from the sound of one collective voice saying, "We don't want this war." No hawking of the socialist newspaper or plea to send goats to Ugandan refugees, no request to convert to Catholicism. One sound, one message: "We don't want this war."