is not a rally. Although we may be moved emotionally by our shared
reflection and acknowledgement, this is not the place for speeches
or announcements." (from MoveOn.org.vigil invitation).
In recognition of the 1,000 American soldiers known to have been
killed in Iraq, more than 500 people gathered for a candlelight
vigil at the state Capitol in Sacramento, California on September
9, 2004. At the request of the organizer, MoveOn.org., the vigil
was for the most part a silent one, and the result was powerful.
Passers-by stopped their cars to ask why we were there, and treated
our answer with serious respect, and in all cases witnessed, agreement
with our cause.
How did the 500 happen to be here? This nationwide event was sponsored
by a Berkeley-based progressive group that uses internet links to
spread their message all across the country. The event was talked
up on Air America (1240 on your Sacramento a.m. radio dial), locally
on Channel 3, and in the local free weekly newspaper. Apart from
these news outlets, you would know of this event if you went to
MoveOn.org's website and joined their mailing list. The "America
Coming Together" website, actforvictory.org, has similar information.
As we approached the Capitol on the evening of 9/9, I wondered
who else would have tuned in to these information outlets and who,
having heard of the event, would make the effort to come down to
the Capitol at 8 p.m.on a weeknight (Thursday). We were very gratified
to see the large number of people-- they filled the sidewalk along
L street for several blocks. The silent gathering of a large number
of people holding candles in the darkness was mystical and emotionally
Usually one is greeted at public peace events by impassioned speeches
interspersed with announcements of upcoming events. At this event,
there was a great silence, which, in combination with the lighted
candles, produced a sensation of great human concern, unmitigated
by any individual or particular group spin. There is a time for
exhortation and the dispensing of information, but this was not
it. Speakers inevitably and unavoidably bring ego and personality
to the table, and the individuals that make up the crowd are diminished
as they become a mass exhorted by a leader. For this occasion, we
needed an ego-less expession of Human Concern about a terrible event
that is happening in the world, and it happened.