Mostly everyone claimed to want peace at the anti-war march yesterday in downtown Chicago. The only difference was varying perspectives about the conflict. Just take a look, putting aside the "facts."
"It's getting better over there," said Ron Verback, one of the 50 or so counter-demonstrators at the event. "We've got to make this country safe. We've got to help those people over there."
Verback, who served as reconnaissance in the Army in Iraq two years ago, says his unit saw a decrease in bombings and more open markets as signs of progress. "Just take Fallujah," he said. "We've taken control and secured that part of the country."
Amidst the waving American flags and some trucker hats bearing U.S. military insignia, a woman raised a poster saying, "I'm proud of my son, Peace through victory!"
Across a cordon of police, clad in flack-jackets and armed with Glocks, the anti-war crowd chanted, "Suppport our troops; Bring them home," and hoisting signs saying things from "Fuck this empire, No blood for oil." to the relatively innocuous: "God bless our troops, God damn President Bush."
"We should support our troops by helping them succeed," countered Verback.
Many other issues were presented as well, such as immigration, presidential politics, health care, education, and the environment. Many of the activists proselytized as they eagerly recommended books they've read that "explain everything."
Among the more questionable elements...
Pro-occupation counter-protesters cried "Coward!" and "Traitor!" when anti-war Iraq veterans passed by the wall of police.
I was going to talk more with the counter-protesters, but a police officer stopped me and told me to go around. "Why can't I pass through?" I asked. His response was simple, authoritarian. "Because that's what I was told to say."
I decided not to press my luck; the Chicago police have come over considerable fire for using "excessive force."
Among the anti-war crowd, some hippie-type folk seem to have been there more to have a good time. With ratty hair, hemp jewelry, and tie-dye clothes, they brought instruments as they performed street theater, wrestling a pretend President Bush. Laughing and singing, "Ole, ole, ole, ole!"
On the flip-side, I really enjoyed the Raging Grannies, a group of elderly ladies singing "Get out of this mess; no more, no war!"
Several other ladies from southern Wisconsin said that three buses came from Madison, Wis. I told them that I went to UW-Madison and they go very excited, telling me with pride about their hometowns of Dodgeville and Mount Horeb. They assured me that Chicago was very nice too.
Several congress members and local government folks were there as well, including Michigan rep. John Conyers and Chicago-area Illinois rep. Luis Gutierrez.
Gutierrez quoted Gen. Omar Bradley's rebuke: "This is the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy"
"America is a great country," said Gutierriez. "But it is not doing great things."
It seemed everyone wanted America to do great things, but couldn't agree on how to get there. Ron Paul supporters were intertwined with those of Dennis Kucinich, and socialists were decrying government altogether.
Counter-protesters and Iraq veterans against the war called each other short-sighted as they both claimed to want peace. But apparently no understanding was bridged.
Instead, a series of campaign slogans mixed with the common stories of veterans and their concerned families.