40 Years in America
It was the May Day celebration of 1980 and I was in Washington leading a CARP fundraising team. Our team had been invited to be a part of the counter-demonstration of the 30,000 Marxist sympathizers camped out near the Capitol. I was not prepared for the day’s events.
I might have guessed or been forewarned by the tone of the morning service the day before. Tiger Park gave the service to about 20 of us who had gathered at the Upshur house. He did his best to wipe the sleep from his face -- even his strong hands could not do it. He was exhausted. He spoke of his struggles -- that he had been struggling with the same things for a long time and there was so much work to do. It was sobering. The next day, about 500 church and CARP members gathered. The Washington mounted police had no intention of letting us confront the Communists. Tiger Park had other ideas.
I had to park our van. I ended up about 15 blocks away. I could take a short cut through the Communists or go around. No epiphany here -- just abject fear. It must have been the day. I had two placards with me: one said "Castro Out of El Salvador!" and the other had a Soviet hammer and sickle with a diagonal line through it (no to Soviet Communism). I decided to walk through the enemy camp. No reaction at first. I had the signs facing down. I walked and walked and for some reason my arms started raising those placards higher and higher. It must have been angels. The response was not angelic. Several men yelled that they would kill me. I had surprised them -- they only threatened me.
I finally joined our main group. Tiger Park wanted to start the confrontation right away -- we and the Washington police had been unwilling. We finally regrouped and chose our site. We basically started a shouting and chanting match with the Communists. We had better chants and were more organized. I shouted with all my might and wind. My head pounded with each shout -- it felt like we were at it for hours -- but it may only have been an hour. I remember something Tiger Park had said about Jericho. Their heads must have ached too. Our goal had been to get equal press.
We finished. What had seemed like real violence ended quite civilly -- it reminded me of a House of Commons debate. My head ached and I wondered what had been accomplished -- it seemed senseless and quite out of my sphere of creating the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Then Tiger Park grabbed my hand and he was smiling from ear to ear. He said, "Wasn’t that great!" My immediate reaction was no, but I just smiled back at him. Tiger Park was chatting and carrying on like we just came from a movie or a sporting event. He and I sat down on bench and just smiled and talked on. We then got up and met with the others and he announced what a great victory we had and how proud he was of our courage. I was overcome with pride. Pride in him and proud of being with him.
We did get equal press. The walls did come down.
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