My July 4th

The highlight of my July 4th was carrying a sign around the Washington Monument before the fireworks.

On one side it read:
Fireworks: Good
Bombing: Bad

On the other:
Fireworks in DC
in Iraq & Gaza

(One from July 3, while joining the Troops Home Fast gathering:
Fireworks in DC
Bombings in Ramadi)

There were tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes there. They would look curiously. They are usually deluged with signs and ads. The Mall on July 4th is amazingly an ad-free place (we'll see how long that lasts...). Eyes would seek my sign and after reading it, quickly dart away.

A young woman walking up to me: You realize you're offending soldiers who are here.
Me: How am I offending them?
Woman: Because you have that sign, they're risking their lives and doing their jobs and they are the people protecting your freedom.
Me: I really don't think that if we withdraw from Iraq my freedom will be curtailed. But I'm happy to talk to any soldiers here. Actually the people who are making the decisions about this war -- not the soldiers -- are also trying to curtail our freedom. So it's the opposite of what you're saying.

She had to go.

Some people clapped -- I'd say hi, shake their hands and gave them a flier about the Troops Home Fast, which is centered on the other side of the White House from the Washington Monument, in Lafayette Park.

A young man followed me around briefly, holding up a piece of paper scrawled with:

Fireworks: Good
Protesting on July 4th: Bad

I glanced at him, laughed and kept walking. After a minute, I turned around, wanting to asking him what it was about the meaning of July 4th that makes it a bad day to protest -- is it better to protest on Groundhog Day? But he was gone.

It was great to hear kids reading my sign, spelling out the syllables. "Fire-works-good bomb-bing-bad."

I had hoped other activists would join me in this, and at times I did feel alone in a way and would call a friend on my cell phone. It was good to smile while carrying my sign.

Man to my left shouting from 15 feet away: How quickly we forget 9-11.
Me walking toward him: Forget what about 9-11?
Man: All those people killed.
Me: Right, people shouldn't be killed, they shouldn't be bombed --
Woman to my right 10 feet away: Freedom isn't free.
Me: What does that have to do with Iraq -- they're not fighting for freedom --
Police officer walking up to me: Let's go.
Me: We're just talking.
Police officer: Let's go.

I walked away and waved to the man and woman. The police officer made no attempt at all to hinder me from carrying my sign.

Man coming up and shaking my hand: I just want to thank you for having the guts to carry that sign around here.
Me: Sure, thanks.
Man: Have you looked into the 9-11 attacks?
Me: Not much, I think there's enough that we know for certain about hideous things this government's done and we don't need to speculate...

Two young women came up, I think they were Italian, applauding me and wanting to take a picture. One whipped out her camera, the other posed with me, giving a thumbs up with one hand and holding up one end of my sign with the other hand. I told her she would have to carry the sign around alone if she wanted to hold it. She looked at me in horror. I told her I was kidding.

[originally published at on July 5, 2006]