Notoriously red Utah garnered national attention this week when along with their mayor, Salt Lake City residents took to the streets in protest of President George W. Bush and his policies, most notably, the war in Iraq.
It came as a surprise to many that even in Utah, where President Bush maintains some of his highest approval ratings, thousands would turn out, in the middle of a work day to voice their discontent with this administration and contrary to some right-wing political bloggers, it wasn’t just “ne’er-do-wells” and “moonbats” who participated.
The crowd was indeed a mixed bag. There were teenagers, mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, working stiffs clad in khaki and sporting their cell phones on their hips, co-workers on their lunch break and perhaps most markedly present were the hundreds of veterans and current soldiers in attendance. A former Marine Captain, Eric Martineau attended the rally, wearing his dress blues, offered this message to The Salt Lake Tribune, “’I want to let Utah know that pre-emptive war is not LDS doctrine,’ he said, noting he is Mormon. ‘We’ll look back at this [war] and see it as a turning point.’”
Some people carried signs while a few, more theatric members of the crowd donned papier-mache, big-head type likenesses of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice in prison stripes and handcuffs.
A poor sound system obscured some speeches, with most of the large crowd unable to hear the quieter speakers. But everyone could hear when Mayor Rocky Anderson took to the microphone.
Anderson, who bore the brunt of much of the criticism surrounding this event, was the undisputed man of the hour, drawing outrageous cheers and causing the sizeable group to huddle up, closer to the podium.
While critics have derided Rocky as a press-hungry sycophant, for Utah’s unsung liberal community, he was bringing international attention to all those who have for years felt crushed by the predominate culture of unwavering and unchallenged Republicanism.
Rocky’s speech has been described by some as a “flaying” of the president and it surely was. Anderson left no criticism of the Bush administration unturned; calling Bush a “dishonest,” war-mongering” and “human-rights-violating” president. But, it would be untrue to call the sum of the mayor’s message on Wednesday, entirely negative.
“Let no one deny we are patriots. We support our nation’s troops. Let’s hear it for our troops! We have many veterans here today. Let’s hear it for our veterans! We are grateful to our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. We love our country, we hold dear the values upon which our nation was founded.”
The mayor also addressed some of the disturbing comments made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the American Legion on Tuesday.
“We are here today because of our values. We love our country. We cherish the freedoms and liberties of our country. We don’t call those who speak out against our nation’s leaders unpatriotic or un-American or appeasers of fascists, as we heard from our nation’s secretary of defense yesterday. We have good, wholesome family values. In our families, we teach honesty, we teach kindness and compassion toward others, we teach that violence, if ever justified, must be an absolutely last resort.”
With the president gone and the banners and signs thrown away there is still much for Salt Lake City and Utah as a whole to think about. Should our state only and always be represented by the voices of those in absolute agreement with the Republican Party because the majority of our state’s citizens are Republican? Or can we find the integrity and strength of character required to treat all our many voices, ideas, priorities and convictions with dignity?