The sun is setting on an otherwise normal day. A breeze trickles past, just light enough for you to feel your hair whisking slightly as it passes through it. It's six o'clock in the evening, and the day is winding down. On a street corner, there's a few people, less than a dozen, staring out at the passing traffic. Warm greetings are exchanged, but a sense of sadness hangs in the balance. A stronger sense has emerged, however. It is that of courage, and in that courage, a steadily growing conviction.
Looking out at the streets, you feel a stranger in this place. Why are you here? You've never been this vocal before. But then again, you've never felt so at ease with yourself inside, and in that ever-growing sense of self, you feel that this is right, and no place but this place is where you need to be. Voices can be heard from across the street, and green shirts, bandanas, headbands, and wristbands can be seen adorning the people who steadily begin to surround you. Your shirt is green, but not as green as you would have liked. Set against the others, you suspect that the teal shirt you're wearing is really more blue than it is green. Distraction. A large green sheet catches the southerly wind, and in moments, it's your hands holding this sheet, your feet keeping it steady on the ground. The sheet balloons and the accompanying sound, flap, flap, flap, battles for your ear's attention against the sound of fifty car engines surrounding the intersection.
The imposing image of a sea of cars greets you, and you're aware that in this covey of solidarity, you are different. You cannot hide this difference, and the energy surrounding you reassures you that it cares only that you are here, that you are standing for what is right. Horns begin honking, simple gestures that seem fleeting and almost futile, but are undeniably powerful. The honking of a car horn, you realize, is just another way to speak your mind, another way to find the words when always they seem so difficult to say.
A look behind you. Twenty people were present when you took hold of the large green sheet. There are at least fifty people now, eyes full of passion and determination. Up the short flight of stairs, more are descending to join you, and across the street, groups of three, four, five people continue to emerge. The blaring of car horns grows louder, steadier, until the noise subsides and becomes a symphony the likes of which you never imagined possible. The shouts of people in chorus with horns, flags waving in the wind, chants floating through the air, all sounding to the same impossibly beautiful tune. Peace.
More than one hundred people, you estimate, are sitting on the sidewalk, candles in hand, listening as someone speaks. We want peace. We do not want violence. We want freedom. Their words, even from only ten feet away, are barely audible over the sound of passersby honking their horns in support of the efforts of a mere handful of individuals, united as one.
Darkness encroaches, and you take comfort in the lack of light. Strangers approach, more open to you now, and eager to converse. A few question if you are Persian, saying they can't quite tell. When you say that no, you are not, they beam with pride and thank you for your support of their efforts, and of their country. Of course, you reply, and you in turn thank them for letting you share in this moment and be a part of their lives. You mention to one woman that you went to another rally last month, and that the energy and the overwhelming sense of humanity is inspiring. She meets your gaze and says I know, I, too, was there.
In this moment it becomes clear to you. You need not wear the exact same shade of green, for we all wear different shades of the same green. In your mind, you've known this all along, but to feel it, to truly feel it for all its worth, that is to own it.
Note: Wednesday night, June 24, 2009, will forever be unforgettable for me. A good friend invited me to join her at a rally for Iran, and I was excited to participate. The words above depict my own experience, but mine is hardly a unique one. I've long believed that we can make this world a better place by getting to know one another and by sharing our lives, our cultures, and our stories. This night further proved this to me when the woman told me that she, too, attended the Day of Decision protest of Proposition 8. We are all in this together.
To the people of Iran, and to their families and friends throughout the world, I have this to say: Know that an extraordinary number of people are supporting your peaceful and courageous efforts to seek change. On a single street corner in the valley of Los Angeles, I saw support from people whose origins span the entire globe. People from every walk of life imaginable driving Ferraris, sedans, SUVs, sports cars, semi-trucks, city buses, RVs, and motorcycles all honked as they went by. Folks waved the peace sign and gave thumbs up, and even children smiled and waved as they passed. The number of people watching and waiting, giving silent and desperate support, is staggering.
To the organizers of the rally I attended and to my Persian friends, old and new, I am so grateful for having been able to attend and be welcomed at this event. Thank you.