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Peace spoke on March 18

MY VIEW: Demonstration gave community a loud voice
by: L.E. Baskow, Marchers take to the streets downtown last month to protest the war in Iraq. One protester took comfort in the thousands of diverse voices united in the call for peace.

'Hey, hey, oh no, Bush's war has got to go.' The rhythm is steady, the sections separated by the sound of a dozen hands keeping time. Voices fade in and out. The woman standing directly in front of me - wearing a bright yellow shirt with a red bumper sticker reading 'Bring our Troops Home NOW' plastered across her shoulders - holds her fingers in her ears.

About 10 feet away, a tall, thin man with a Santa Claus beard walks along the sidewalk hitting a bucket for a drum - a wooden spoon and a metal fork are his drumsticks.

People are everywhere. The rich meld of human voices speaking, laughing and yelling sounds like water or a heavy wind. Individual voices are swallowed up and carried along, further and clearer than they might ever be heard shouting in unison.

There's a little girl sleeping in a stroller - the word 'peace' painted across her forehead. A dog wearing a cardboard sign, 'Bark for peace,' is tethered to the stroller. Two feet over is a Buddhist monk in his orange robe, smiling and walking while those around him yell. There's a man in a business suit, a group of high school students dressed in black, and plenty of long ponytails and bandannas to go around. The mix of people is astounding.

Early estimates say that together we number 10,000 - maybe even more. We are college students, professionals, writers, photographers and artists. We are parents and children, cousins and friends. We are Republicans and Democrats. We are soldiers and longtime pacifists. We live in Oregon, and we all marched through Portland for peace.

The march began officially at 2:30 p.m. March 18, but there were so many people that most of us didn't begin to move until well after 3 p.m. At first it was slow, an inch here and inch there. We all took pictures - of the Unitarian Universalist doves, of a topless couple on bicycles with a banner denouncing torture, of eight people - perfectly still in the street, wearing orange jumpsuits, their heads in black hoods. We even found Waldo in his distinctive striped red and white shirt with blue jeans and hat. There were posters everywhere, and the back of everyone's shirt said something.

We are here for a variety of reasons. Some of us are angry, some of us are sad. Some of us were just going for a walk in Portland and stumbled into the virtual flood of people, sweeping and swirling our way down the street.

Many of us have friends or family members who will frown at our participation in the march. Some of us don't even know why we're here. We are rallying, gathering, shouting, singing, waving signs and cheering.

Why?

We're tired of reading about 18 -, 19 - and 20-year-old kids dying in a foreign land. We found out - far too late - that bombing another country just because our citizens were killed did nothing to solve any of the world's problems.

We don't want to wake up another morning and learn that our nation or our soldiers are responsible for yet another atrocity - intended or otherwise.

We are tired of war, and we feel helpless as bombs go off and soldiers return tired and bloody, leaving limbs and sanity thousands of miles behind.

So we yell, we wave our signs and we unite - allowing our voices to blend, to meld in the hopes that one unified voice, one community might be heard where hundreds of thousands of individuals are not.

Callie Vandewiele of Forest Grove is a political-science major at Pacific University.