Many people ask this question when they see the pickets on the street corner. Rain or shine they’re at Encinitas Boulevard and Coast Highway every Sunday and have been for the past several years.
From noon until 1p.m. they stand with signs, smiles and waves for the people who pass by. Sometimes they’re only two, sometimes they’re 10. They’re waiting for others to wake up and join them.
Whether social worker, teacher, engineer, student, parole officer, construction worker, or — as one of them grinningly told me international troublemaker — they come from varied backgrounds. If individually some are part of groups, on this corner they stand together with shared common values and no group name. Unless, of course, it’s “The Pickets on the Street Corner.”
I asked one of them to describe some of these shared common values. “Well, I think we all agree that we support a society based on the idea ‘To each according to his needs; from each according to his abilities,’” Walter said.
“It’s a basic family value,” Larry piped in. “In the ideal family kids get what they need and parents do whatever they can to meet those needs. As kids grow up they’re taught to contribute according to what they can do. This teaches them responsibility towards the family community. If someone in the family breaks a leg, no one says, ‘Sorry, we can’t take care of this unless you have insurance.’ My god! Parents would be hauled in for child abuse if they said that. Yet that’s what our family community is told by those in power without a blink of the eye. We need to change that.”
“If you’re really going to write about us, say that we specifically reject a society based on the idea ‘I pledge that I will do my best to help myself and screw the rest,’” David added.
“Hmmmm,” I thought. “These guys rock.”
While we talked cars passed by, honking and waving as they read Miriam’s sign, “Honk to End the Wars!” Or maybe it was David’s sign, “Honk to Jail Wall Street!” Chloe held another one, “No More Arms to Israel! Free Palestine!” As I stood there talking with them I was impressed with the positive responses of cars and people passing by.
A few drivers, however, didn’t care much for the signs. Almost apoplectic, they screeched their tires and shouted that overworn, two-word epithet we all know so well. After one of them did so Miriam smiled, shrugged her shoulders and said, “They have a very limited vocabulary.”
I told “The Pickets on the Street Corner” I was going to write about them and asked what message I should relay. Almost in unison they said “Tell them to stop complaining, get off their butts and join us. If they want change they have to make it happen. They can start here. We need to talk with each other and to take a stand. They can bring their own sign or hold one of ours. The point is to stand up and speak out. The only way things will change is when we make it happen.”
I took up one of their signs (“Afghanistan: Obama’s Vietnam?”) and stood with them until one o’clock came around. I thought, “They’re right. The idea of ‘We, the people … ’ should be more than just something in the preamble of the Constitution.”
Filed Under: Community Commentary