And so spring bashfully comes again. Slowly Birkenstocks and Tevas find their way to the front of the closet and wool pea coats are shed for soft, pasteled layers.
And spring always brings the plaza dwellers. I have always secretly admired the plaza dwellers, those harbingers of doom or wisdom or warning or hope who spend their time proclaiming something as the rest of us try not to be late for class for the 18th time this semester.
Regardless of the state of things in the world, the plaza dwellers are usually there reminding us of the fairly abstract. The end of the world is coming. Absolute morality exists. God doesn’t love you. God does love you. We are destroying the world.
But the plaza dwellers currently maintaining a relatively static presence are a little more concrete. The war-related protests have begun.
The protests on our campus are fairly tame to those that ensued during the Vietnam era. And they’re pretty tame for those that are happening in larger environs around the country. But the protesters feel they are there for a reason, even if it is just to express solidarity with a larger cause.
“We know that this is not going to stop the war,” explains Mae Pagett, who sits several layers of blankets on a particularly chilly spring day. “We are just using this space to meditate, think, and pray about what is going on in the world.”
Mae sits with two other women in silent vigil. “I think our leaders know what they are doing,” says Kathy Plate. “I just don’t agree with it. I disagree with the policies of a pre-emptive strike. This is a somber way to remember that people are suffering.”
About 20 feet away sits the solitary Kellie Keelan, who holds a stainless-steel bowl of yellow ribbons. Kellie is armed with signs with American and POW flags on them. She explains why she’s not doing something else today.
“I am here to hand out ribbons for our troops who have been taken prisoners of war,” says Keelan, who has a cousin currently in Iraq and a brother about to ship out. “I want help rally support and respect for the troops’ sacrifice. Even if you are 100 percent anti- war, you need to support the troops. They don’t make foreign policy, they are just doing their jobs, defending you and me.”
What is interesting is that both sets of groups seem rather benevolent towards the other side. Katie Sutherland, who sits on a blanket in a fasting protest of military engagement in Iraq, says, “We should definitely support our troops. Supporting the troops and supporting the war are two different things.”
And one gets the sense that while volatile things are happening in the world, and while volatile things are even happening within the global protest scene, the CSU protest scene is actually not too scary. No one seems out to necessarily light the world on fire. None of the girls sitting on the plaza seem convinced that they will actually “do any good.” But there comes a time when personal conscience demands an outlet for escape. Even if that escape is just sitting on the Plaza in two-hour shifts.
Because as it turns out, it is better to engage in activity that has no possibility of changing the world than to resign one’s self to societally-approved apathy.
Behind them, another spring tradition ensues. Hundreds of little plastic multi-colored flags flap spastically in the breeze. Commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Week, each flag testifies to an obscene number of terminated lives. Each flag speaks to a number of lives who could not cry out in outrage or protest for themselves.
Regardless of your stance on war, we live in a nation where we do not have to worry about knocks on our door in the middle of the night because of that stance. We owe this both to the legislator and also to the soldier.
On the Plaza, both sets of protestors sit stoically, unbothered by the worries that affected those now commemorated by little plastic flags.
Bothered only by the spring breeze that sometimes blows a little too raw.
Sarah Laribee is teaching English at Rocky Mountain High School. Please employ her.