We've marched on Washington. We've rallied in New York City. High on a hill in San Francisco, we carried our banners for peace. Due to the hard work of the organizers of these national protests, most major media outlets have paid attention to the largest anti-war demonstrations since the Vietnam War.
A story that's not been covered so well has been the rallying of rural America against war. The New York Times, in a very nice article about the global protests by millions of people against George W. Bush's attempt to start a war against Iraq, described demonstrations occurring in "scores of cities". What the national media isn't reporting is that smaller, but proportionally as significant, protests took place today in small towns across America and all over the world.
This weekend, instead of taking the long drive down to the national protest as we've done before, my wife and I went down the road to Trumansburg, New York. With a population of just around 2,000 people, Trumansburg is closer to Ottawa than Washington, D.C., and is definitely an Upstate town. Four to five hours away from New York City, many Trumansburg residents traveled to the national protest. However, some decided that they could do just as well holding their own rally on home turf.
At noon, over 50 locals gathered at the fairgrounds. Lining both sides of State Route 96, the protesters carried signs with messages ranging from the straightforward "No War" to more psychological suggestions such as "Relax, Bush". Braving frigid temperatures between zero and ten degrees Fahrenheit, people of ages ranging from 6 to well above 60 kept the protest going from late morning until mid-afternoon, when the group left to join a larger protest to the south in the city of Ithaca.
Passing by, cars and trucks eagerly honked their horns in response to signs asking them to "Honk for Peace." One protester, holding one of these signs on the south end of the demonstration estimated that about seventy percent of the people driving gave their support. Some drivers even stopped to join in the protest.
There was no formal organization that sponsored this small town protest. A couple of friends decided that they wanted to do something to show their support for peace, and the news of a protest spread through phone calls, emails and old-fashioned word-of-mouth.
Similar anti-war demonstrations took place in small towns all across the United States, and in other countries as well. These protests may not have been as large in number as national protests, but proportionally, they were just as significant.
For a small town of 2,000 people to send over 100 people to the national protest and still be able to muster a local protest of 50 individuals, with at least another 100 locals expressing support as they drive by, is remarkable. Most telling of all, there was no counter-protest. Not a single resident of Trumansburg took to the streets to support George W. Bush's plans for an unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Even as a large number of locals rally together against war, there is no pro-war organization in the town, and no signs of one forming.
Protests like the one in Trumansburg show that the opposition to Bush's war runs both broad and deep. It isn't just city people, or college students, or young people of military age that oppose a new war. Regular folks from small town America are turning against the war too, increasingly uneasy that the high-ups in the Bush Administration just don't seem to want to listen to what the people have to say.
Today, February 15, 2003, millions of people in big cities and little towns across the world came together, hoping that reasonable politicians in Washington will hear their plea for peace, but they are not naive. Even in the little villages in the forgotten corners of America, people are organizing, getting ready to offer their dissent once a war has begun.
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