Five years ago (before I had this blog), I would send out emails like these to my friends and family:
From: Ned Buratovich
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 11:11 PM
Subject: What I Did for World Peace Day — September 21
You might not have known that Friday, September 21, was the United Nations International Day of Peace for 2007. I would not have known either except for a friend’s e-mail a few days earlier. I’ve been feeling really down for a long time, but especially lately, with what is happening in America. We are ever more rapidly losing our liberties here at home, while we simultaneously, in the name of freedom, inflict death and destruction abroad. Meanwhile a somnolent, complacent population keeps entranced with Fox news stories of Britney Spears, or O.J. Simpson, or Barry Bonds.
I’ll stop myself now before I get on a rant, and believe me I could. What could I do that was positive and uplifting, even if ultimately symbolic, much like my regular correspondence with Senators Feinstein and Boxer (impassioned entreaties in one direction and form replies in the other.) I even have my congressman, Mike Honda, in my phone on speed dial (although I wrote him a really nasty letter the other day over his nonsupport of impeachment.) I don’t know that it has any positive effect at all.
So for my positive and uplifting and symbolic act on World Peace Day I went to my local recycling dumpster and pulled out a big piece of cardboard. I took a magic marker and put my message on it in big letters and then went to the Hamilton Ave. off-ramp from Highway 17. There’s a spot there right at the end of the ramp that is on public sidewalk and I figured, it’s still America, right? So I can hold a sign on a public sidewalk and I’m within my rights.
But still, having read the recent news about people being arrested for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts or students getting Tazed in Florida for brusquely asking inopportune questions in a political forum, I was nervous. I had no contingent of simpatico types to buffer me; just me, alone, an individual. Just me and three lanes of traffic streaming by at 30, 40 miles an hour when the light was green and then when the light was red, stopped with the vertigo like perception of all the cars ever so slightly moving backwards.
I had just jeans and a T-shirt. I was like the homeless guy, the panhandler, the down on his luck Vietnam (or maybe now, Iraq war) veteran. You know, the guys with the signs that read: Will Work for Food.
I walked right up to the edge of traffic and held my sign. It said: Will Work for Peace.
Almost instantly a woman in the second row of cars flashed me the peace sign and smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back. Then other people started flashing me the peace sign, or thumbs up, or just smiling or even laughing. Well for sure, there were lots of people who stared straight ahead and made no contact whatsoever and there was even one guy who flipped me off, but a good third or more seemed amused if not outright supportive.
I had thought that I might not be able to endure more than 30 minutes of this, but hey, more people were seeing my message in two minutes then would come visit my blog in a year, and furthermore, lots of people were really smiling. Of course, the sign was purposely funny, but also dead serious. I ended up standing on that corner in one spot for almost 90 minutes. On the other side of the offramp was a shoe store with a big sign that said: Feet Hurt?
I don’t know that I made any big change in the world. I know that I made a couple hundred people smile (more than at my biggest comedy gigs). I know that I connected with some people. I know that I overcame my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to not be silent. I can no longer be silent.
I was thinking, that wasn’t so bad. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to do it somewhere less progressive like Texas, or Florida, or maybe even Orange County. Sad to say, but in some parts of our society, wanting and being willing to work for peace is regarded as being weak, or unrealistic, or America-hating.
That tells me just how much work there is to be done, there is just too much to be done to leave it to “somebody else.” They need my help. I will work for peace.