New York Times,“To the Barricades, Oldsters of the Republic:”
IT is a Friday afternoon in this college town on the prairie, and the demonstrators at First Street and Lincoln Highway are raising a political ruckus. Some hoist signs that declare, “Stop the War!” But across the street, people are waving signs with other messages — “Support the Troops” and “Danger: Traitors” — gibing at the antiwar contingent.
Whatever their politics, a big share of the demonstrators on both sides of the street have one thing in common: retirement. Although this is the home of Northern Illinois University, with an enrollment of nearly 25,000, it is the retirees, far more than the students, who are taking to the streets to chant slogans and sing political anthems.
“People in cars drive by and wave at us,” said Cele Meyer, 84, a retired social worker who opposes the war. “Sometimes they use two fingers. Sometimes just one.”
Normally Cele would have the last word, but I want to make one thing clear. I have observed that the anti-war protesters (sometimes including myself) number 15-18 on the average Friday to around 40 on anniversary occasions and/or when special guests attend. Even in very bad weather they don’t miss, though will participate in shifts. The “support the troops” corner usually supports a max of 3-5 but sometimes there’s one lone guy with a flag. When it comes to driver response, the “two-finger wavers” currently outnumber the “one-finger wavers” 7-3 or 8-2. This is very different from 2003-4 when some thought it possible or even likely that they’d be the targets of literal potshots as well as verbal ones.