Saturday, December 12, 2009

Praying with your feet

Some days you know you are part of history, even if you can’t see it clearly from where you are standing. Today was one of those days.

After a lazy morning (following a late night of dancing to 70s and 80s music (very popular here), drinking (schnapps and ‘jule beer’ are both favored drinks), and generally falling in love with my 6 Danish hosts, all under 26 and living in one of the most lovely apartments I’ve ever seen), we finally realized that in this part of the world, one must seize blue-sky days as quickly as we can. And the day was gorgeous. Following the suggestions of our host, we went downtown, and before long found ourselves at parliament. In these kinds of situations of increasing uncertainty (when one has no plan and doesn’t know what is going on but wants to do something), the best plan is rational, systemic irrationality – watch the people directly around you and follow them. So when someone came up and said, are you going to the thing at parliament, I said, yes, not knowing what they were talking about. The ‘thing’ was the demonstration in front of some of Copenhagen’s beautiful buildings.

Thus we found ourselves in the midst of 10,000 people (at least!), screaming and chanting and sometimes listening to inspiring speakers. Eventually, to our great delight, we found a bright yellow sign that said ‘QUAKERS’. Delighted to find our tribe, we rushed over – and discovered only one person of the two holding the banner was a Quaker. Clearly, we were needed. Clearly, we had found our purpose for being there. And so we carried the sign made and signed with love from Quakers in England, whom we had never met, along with thousands and thousands of other people, down the high streets and the residential areas. The march was at least 6 kilometers long, and we were frozen and exhausted by the time we got to the Bella Center, the centre of the conference. But, happily, we found several other Quakers (or rather, they found us). By the time we reached the end of the march, it was pitch dark, and people lit candles, and had small fires, and chestnuts, and sparkles. A few polar bears ‘died’ (some under our ‘quaker’ sign, to our amusement). There were random bands, and musicians, puppets (a few impressive cows, symbolizing the end of grazing land in sub-saharan Africa and, I think separately, the dangers of meat consumption). I never got a sense of the whole crowd. Police were everywhere – and vacillated between being helpful and obstructive. It was, in short, beautiful.

What else can one say about a march? That after years of talking about this issue, I feel my voice is very small- it is overwhelmed by the voices of others, often younger than I am, also talking about it. That is a much better feeling than being overwhelmed by voices saying something different than I am! And taking to the streets – for better or for worse, I sense this is only the beginning of different kinds of climate marches that I and many others shall be a part of.

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