GREENSBORO, N.C. – Folks who believe the official line that the support for the current US policies in the war on terrorism and the new domestic measures at home is nearly unanimous need to know what happened in Greensboro on the 4th of July.

The Greensboro Peace Coalition heeded a suggestion that it should have an entry in the city’s annual 4th of July Parade. After some hesitation, we decided to register an entry and spread the word that we were going to claim our piece of the public space and utilize that day of patriotism to spread our message of opposition to Bush’s “war on terrorism.”

We also bought a half-page ad in The Greensboro News and Record to print the “Not In Our Name – Statement of Consciousness” along with names of over 100 prominent national signers.

Some of our members and supporters were afraid that the parade entry would be too aggressive a tactic. They feared that in the light of the patriotic outburst since Sept. 11 an entry in the city’s parade would be too much in the face of those who would be waving the flag that day.

Some of them changed their minds and came to the parade anyway. Those negative fears turned out to be wrong.

We had over 50 people – Black and white, young and old, professional, laboring and unemployed – come to march with us behind a banner that said “Greensboro Peace Coalition – Not In Our Name.”

The theme of the Parade was “American Heroes.” Our delegation marched with posters of Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Fredrick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and other great Americans who have stood for peace against militarism and aggression.

Along the parade route, people began to applaud. There were a few hecklers, but only a few. There were far more smiles, peace signs and applause.

After the parade, we set up a table among the groups who participated in the day-long “Fun Fourth” activities. So many times that day we heard how glad people were to see someone with the courage to express concerns about the nation’s direction.

A real surprise came when officials from the event’s organizing committee came to our table to give us the award for “Best Interpretation of Theme” in the Parade.

After the day was over, I looked at the e-mails coming to the Greensboro Peace Coalition. Some of them were caustic and critical of us for having the nerve of going against “mainstream America.” Many others, however, expressed real joy that someone was standing up for what was right and asked how to get more involved.

There is a real lesson in this. If you scratch the surface of the poll numbers about Bush’s and Ashcroft’s overwhelming support, you get down to a lot of people with a lot of questions, a lot of concerns and a lot of fears. Some of them are afraid that they are alone in what they are thinking.

What it takes to get them involved is for them to see someone standing up so that they will know that they are not alone. We should have been doing this in every city across the country that had a 4th of July parade. If we had the foresight and the courage, we could have turned this day of flag waving into a day of introspection and dialogue and building this important movement against repression here at home and aggression abroad.

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