What good does it do to spend 12 hours on a bus so that you can walk in withering heat for four hours, chanting slogans to politicians whose heads are so far up the butts of money that they can't hear anything?
You know you'll be lucky if this elaborate demonstration, the hard work of hundreds of dedicated organizers and thousands of sweating marchers, gets even a 10-second mention in the mainstream media. We never know if all this effort moves or even reaches the intended audiences with the message that we, meaning all of us, 1 percent included, are in serious trouble. Yet there is something terribly brave and profoundly touching about watching and participating in the struggle to move power to action.
I rode the bus to Philadelphia with about 50 other people from Rochester and Syracuse to demonstrate in defense of the earth before the Democratic convention. We rode to join the thousands of others from as far away as Hawaii to demand that the Democratic Party return to its traditional role as protector of the environment.
It's appalling to have to report that Bill McKibben, Bernie Sanders's environmental delegate to the Democratic platform committee, could get no cooperation from Hillary's delegates on reduction of methane emissions, fracking, off-shore drilling, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which even their own candidate now opposes.
The only concession he could win for the environment was an agreement on more bicycle lanes. This response to the global threat of climate change amounts to fighting our burning forest fires with a squirt gun. This, no doubt, is why his organization, 350.org, arrived with signs that read, “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. ACT LIKE IT!”
Large and varied contingents demanded an end to fracking; a serious priority effort to develop and deploy renewable energy; an end to endless wars that waste time, resources and lives; an end to environmental and political racism that divide and sap our energies; an end to bad trade agreements like TPP that give corporations grounds to sue us if we dare to pass laws protecting our environment; and even an end to an economic system that values profits for the rich over human rights and human lives.
The people on our bus spoke out against nuclear power, dangerous gas infrastructure, and the TPP. They supported renewable energy and the right to clean air and water. We ranged in age from 16 to 90, with most of us falling into the over 50 bracket. We came with bad knees, bad backs, bad jokes, and little sleep.
We joined the multitudes arriving with banners, musical instruments, puppets, props, and younger bodies. I saw families. I saw gay, straight, black, and white people. I saw a huge bus bearing the words, “BLACK MEN FOR BERNIE.” I even saw two blind men: one young and one old, marching under the blazing sun to the pounding of drums.
The police were there in force along with squads of Bernie Peacekeepers. They all did their jobs with professional dignity and courtesy. One policeman even apologized to me for brushing my leg with his bicycle tire.
I met a retired couple who interrupted their sailboat journey around the world to fly to Philadelphia for the demonstration. It was a grand party of people from everywhere coming together to defend each other’s lives from the greatest threat ever to confront our species. It was humanity at its very best, turning its suffering into celebration. It was immensely inspiring and thrilling to realize that we were doing this for each other, for all life.
Whatever the outcome of efforts like these, they remind us of what we are fighting for. They remind us that we are not alone. These open-hearted demonstrations have their own worth: giving us hope, showing the world that we have the ability and the choice to embrace our diversity. Love one another as we work together on our problems.