You could say I'm a veteran of peace demonstrations. Since the early 1980s, I estimate that I have participated in more than 200 such rallies and marches around the world, from Dallas to Washington, D.C., to New York City to London to Paris to Berlin to Moscow to New Dehli.
Some, like many in my resident city of Dallas, Texas, have been relatively small, but important nonetheless. Others, like in D.C. and European cities, have been massive. In some, we didn't march. In others, we marched for miles.
But on Saturday, Feb. 15, I emerged from the largest demonstration I've ever attended in Dallas with more hope than ever before that our situation will improve. It wasn't just that 5,000 or so people from one of the most right-wing regions of the world, the former home of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and the fictional J.R. Ewing and many others who represent cold-hearted, selfish economic and political policies, had braved the wind and cold and threats and everything else to make a statement to Bush Inc. that a 'blood for oil personal revenge world domination military boost' war against economic sanctions - wracked Iraq was unacceptable.
It was the wide array of people from all walks of life -- high school students showing they cared about more than their own problems, soccer moms protesting for the first time, retired school teachers, professionals in suits, war veterans, parents who also brought their young children -- that gave me the most hope.
Bush can continue to ignore veteran activists and liberals like me. But he can't ignore the independent suburban voters, the kind who don't vote straight tickets for the Republican or any other political party.
Bush can't ignore people like Virginia Abdo, 68, a retired teacher from University Park, a wealthy suburb right next to the burb where Cheney lived until he helped steal the White House. When people like Abdo carry signs like, "Old Euro-Americans Want Peace Too," Bush has to take notice.
Bush can't ignore people like Virginia Barnett, 49, a graphics technician from Dallas who attended a peace rally at the memorial for assassinated former President John F. Kennedy for the first time in her life on Saturday. He can't ignore Harold Jones, 81, a World War II veteran who carried a sign that read "Brains Not Bombs." He can't ignore Jason Lantz, a computer systems administrator running for City Council in Plano, a city north of Dallas even more conservative than the latter.
These are people who know that to solve our problems, it will take more than duct tape and plastic sheets, and tax cuts for the wealthy, and corporate paybacks to campaign contributors, and phony terrorism alerts that seek to divert attention from the real problems, and immoral, bullying invasions of far weaker opponents.
Bush and British leaders like Tony Blair can't ignore the more than 1 million people who jammed London's streets, the largest peacetime protest ever in that city. They can't ignore the multitudes that attended massive protests in Rome, New York, Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona.
The major media couldn't ignore such numbers, and Bush can't either. Even the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which ignore most protests, covered the rallies.
I believe the people who came out and practiced their democratic rights on Saturday are more American than those who sat on their butts and criticized them. We must continue to display our flags with pride, showing we are patriots who care about more than the selfish, violent agenda pushed by Bush Inc.
Organizers with various peace groups around the world -- including the Dallas Coalition Against the War in Iraq, the North Texas Coalition for a Just Peace, and the Dallas Peace Center that coordinated the Dallas demo -- deserve much praise and support. Saturday's demonstrations were successful beyond most people's wildest dreams.
Even if Bush Inc. continues its policy of bullying Iraq and other countries, millions of people stood up to the Bush bullies in unprecedented numbers Saturday. They will remember come election time.
Jackson Thoreau is co-author of "We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House." The e-book can now be downloaded at Fight the Right. Email Thoreau at firstname.lastname@example.org.