Friday, October 05, 2007

San Francisco March for Burma

Alice walked from the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to the UN Plaza by the SF Civic Center today with several hundred others. She'd never "marched" for anything before, but she said Burma needs help now. Right now. People need to do things like marches to keep it in the news. Tommorrow at noon in cities all over the world, people will gather to help Burma.
Down the long hill on Geary Street, then to O'Farrell and Hyde Street. The marchers filled a whole city block 3-5 people across in one lane of traffic. Alice was sorry every time they blocked car traffic, but at least the marchers moved along pretty quickly. Not longer than a long stop light.
Many of the marchers were not from Asian families. News reports said they were mostly all Burmese, Tibetan... but many around Alice were not. She guessed maybe 15-20% were not of Asian heritage. Funny how the press gets things wrong so often...
At the end of the march there were some speakers. First up was a lady who works for Congressman Tom Lantos. She read a speech he made recently in Congress. Then she quietly walked to the back of the crowd and sat down just a few feet away from Alice. Talk about "standing" with the marchers!
Two Japanese Buddhist priests started off the prayers. Then a Korean priest. Two Burmese monks - one of whom got out of Burma more than a decade ago. He asked as so many have this week, "Where are the monks?..... Next we will be asking where are the ordinary people?"
It just made one think of Crystal Nacht in old Germany. Heart rending.
About this time, someone started passing around a multi-page press statement from Congresswoman Pelosi. (Too late, babe! thought Alice. Outa be sitting next to the lady from Lantos' office already... or have a rep as he did. Still, better late than never.)
Then two Zen monks spoke. One from Berkeley. Other from San Francisco. One chanted three times in English the most important Buddhist credo. He asked everyone to pray for peace and kindliness to the whole world... even to the Burmese military junta who've ordered unarmed monks shot and beaten.
Senator Feinstein's office sent a statement which was read out.... but by then the prayers were over. The sun was going down, people were starting to light candles and Alice needed to come home to me. She walked down the aisle at UN Plaza of the plinths carved with the year each country joined the UN. She thought about how the UN was formally created at meetings in San Francisco so many years ago.
So many times the UN seems irrelevant. Alice hopes this is not one of those times.