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Gone Protestin'

In a few moments, I'm heading to the protest, the big one. After that I may wander up to Central Park to see what happens there. Or not; I may come home and go to sleep. My friend Alex has had dozens of giant balloons made, with Bush's head on them—maybe we'll pop them at the end of the march. We're going to meet at 7th and Houston, and walk up to join the throng. Friends are up from D.C., people in from all over. My girlfriend is at home with a broken foot, wishing she could go.

Last night my pal Jack and I put up 50 posters with the faces of 50 dead soldiers around Wall St., wheatpasting them to the bottoms of light posts and onto steampipes. Wall St. was empty on a Sunday night, but I've worked down there enough, for banks, to know where people walk. No one arrested us or had words. If the police had stopped me, I would have said: we think that the soldiers, and all the people who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being forgotten in everything that's happening. That it's become about one man, the president, rather than the many men and women who are forfeiting their lives. I mean, I probably would have mumbled something like that.

And then the police would have said something in response, and it would have gone from there. I think they would have understood. Others putting up these posters were stopped by the police, and when they explained what they were doing, and why, the police nodded and let them continue.

I'm 30 now, and when I write Ftrain, I often think of myself at 18 years of age. What could I teach that young man? What I would say, before I hop on the Ftrain proper to go to the protests, is: peace and fairness have become these sort of eye-roll-inducing words. They're said with a sneer. But as I was raised a patriotic Christian, those words still have some meaning to me.

This morning people were yelling at the coffeeshop about the mess in the city, the protesters, on and on. And I didn't say anything. Just let myself swim in it. Because there's no reason to say a word; my statement will be made later today, and I won't have to make it alone.

And today is going to be amazing. For a few hours, all sorts of people will be together, all different colors of skin and clothes, thousands of different ideas, all unified in that they hate the way things have gone, that they loathe this sourness that has soaked into our democratic ideals. Some will be in cut-off cargo pants hitting drums, and some uptight others, like me, might wear Oxford shirts with celluloid collars. They'll be exercising their right to assembly and free speech. They'll be nonviolent, at least all but the tiniest fraction. And while nothing will immediately change as a result of their coming together, maybe something will happen later in reaction to all of us. And I think myself, at 18, would be saying, good going, don't lecture me, I'm already there. Let's get on the train.

I'm Paul Ford, and I approved this essay.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

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