People's Parade of Tejas

"Please try to understand before one of us dies." - Fawlty to Manuel

The time is one thirty pm. So it's my lunchtime and I rush to the kitchenette and start my frozen food thing in the microwave oven. Since I lost the interest in watching the food going round and round when I was five years old, I decide to go upstairs and outside to have a smoke. I head for the front door of the place and it's all glass doors so I get quite an eyeful as I head into the vestibule.

Standing there holding to the doors are about eight ushers and members of security. Now understand my job is downstairs so I've been oblivious to all this until this moment. Actually, I'd heard someone earlier mention there was a crowd outside but I didn't imagine this. Close to a thousand people are standing on the street in downtown Dallas, holding banners and signs all saying sentiments that I can't help but agree with: "DROP BUSH NOT BOMBS" they say. "THOU SHALT NOT KILL" was a common and popular phrase. And there was this large wide banner that ran the girth of the two lane street: "GIVE PEACE A CHANCE." Well these are all fine sentiments, but it's a bit disturbing seeing all these security people standing by the doors, as if they expected trouble.

One of the ushers offers to open the door and let me outside, with a proper understanding that they would remember me and let me back in, but I just choose to stand there a moment and observe the display. It seems a bit rowdy, but overall the intent is obviously a peaceful protest. It's no more rowdy than any situation which would bring a thousand people out in the streets of Dallas on a Saturday afternoon. In fact I recall some years ago when the Dallas Cowboys won the Superbowl there was a much more rowdy display on the streets of downtown, with one young woman getting trampled and then hospitalized, and a small number of young people getting chastised by police and carted off to the ..well wherever they cart off particularly rowdy people. I stand there and after a moment decide this doesn't look like a Dallas Cowboys parade, so I decide to brave the human element and make my way outside.

I go to my usual place a few steps away from the front doors where the large ashtray / trash can has been placed. I often find it amusing that smokers are asked to loiter outside the property by a trash bin. I take it as a silent sentiment of those who decide where smoking areas are to go. We smokers are in their minds akin to refuse they wish they could throw out. If one looks close enough, one can find protests in all kinds of places.

I'm standing there, smoking a cigarette, taking in the afternoon's free entertainment. I saw all ages there. Parents pushing baby carriages. Teenagers with strange smirks on their faces as if they knew something the rest of us didn't know. Long-haired boomers who probably recalled the similar protests of the late 1960s regarding Vietnam. Silver-haired yet quite healthy looking types in sport sweats who could probably have marched the whole lot of teenagers into the ground. I found myself trying to guess just how many people were standing there before me and I could only guess roughly a thousand. I counted they were at least ten abreast for each line (for lack of a better word) of people in the crowd that passed for a parade. If they stood ten abreast across the street, then I guessed every ten lines of people would make a hundred. Breaking that down and mentally doing a Madden in my head marking each crowd of one hundred, I counted at least ten little 'blocks' of people that I could see, and there appreared to be people beyond my sight, so there may have been more than a thousand, but just not in my immediate view.

Far more people than the piddly couple score of protesters who came out when that Florida madness happened during the last presidential election. Had we been able to get Gore instead of Bush back then, perhaps this protest would not have been necessary. Somewhere down the way there's some man just out of my view shouting orders through a megaphone, and all the megaphone seems to be doing is distorting his voice so that it's impossible to make out a word that he's saying, but he occasionally makes this weird cheering sound and then everybody in the crowd joins him in cheering. Well, I think, at least they're having a good time about it all.

"NO BLOOD FOR OIL," "WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?," "PEACE WORKS WAR DON'T" and "NO WAR IN IRAQ" the signs read to anyone who dared to read, which besides me and the security detail inside, didn't look like many people were looking. The interested audience was all inside the parade, so there were very few left interested enough to pay attention. I couldn't help but contemplate how futile and fruitless this endeavour was going to be for these people. I've read there were protests all over the world today. Yet the Bush War Machine still trudges on. The United Nations is talking about tripling the weapons inspectors, but Bush's recent presidential address still sounds like a politically correct way of demanding a pre-emptive strike. The weapons inspectors themselves are insisting there's been no evidence of actual weapons of mass destruction, yet Powell claims that's because Saddam's men are playing Hide The Sausage.

Daddy Bush got his little war. There's no indication from what I can see that little Baby Bush isn't going to buy his own little war too. Put his name in the history books. I just hope that history judges him fairly. HARSHLY, but fair.

As I stood there puffing away, getting that much closer to dying of lung cancer provided Dallas doesn't get inundated by some new strain of the ancient smallpox, I notice a dozen dark-skinned gentlemen walking towards me, in the opposite direction which the parade is facing. One of them has a megaphone. Perhaps he was the guy shouting orders earlier which no one could understand. They walk past me, and I glance over to see where they're going. Turns out they stop right behind me, and face the building. They line up in one line as if they were about to be inspected by a drill sergeant.

Then something happens which pretty much just floors me. They start praying. Turns out they're all muslim. Okay. I shoulda guessed that I suppose. Very quiet. Very solemn. Not twenty feet away from them there's a thousand people shouting and waving banners which pretty much say to these guys, "gee we're really sorry that the leader of our free nation is such a nit, but here! Look at our signs! Honestly, we don't want to turn the sandy country of your origin into glass with nuclear warheads but even though half of us voted the bastard into office please don't take it personally."

These guys are praying. Checking in with God. Or Allah. Or Jehovah. Or whoever the heck one chooses to call the Big Guy Upstairs. They stand and pray. Then in unison they kneeled and prayed. Then they bowed to the ground as if to kiss the ground and they pray. Then they stand back up again. I hear some stuff that I don't understand but sounded pleasant and I hoped was relatively positive and goodnatured despite the madness of the early 21st century. I looked up towards the sky and gave my God half a wink. I'll agree with any positive sentiments these gents may have which don't mean to cause harm to either this country or any other, so long as it means a peaceful solution to all this foolishness and that there's no killing. And I can't help but get a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of my gut as they gathered their things and walked away.

And then the warm and fuzzy feeling in my gut reminds me that my frozen lunch is still in the microwave oven inside getting cold, so I put out my cigarette and make my way downstairs.

Human beings. I'll never understand them.