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  SACRAMENTO VIGIL FOR THE DEAD IN IRAQ
   
 
 

"This 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 powerful.

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.

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