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Sunday, September 12, 2010

10,000 Stand Against Hate

Yesterday I was in New York for the march and rally for religious freedom called in response to protests of the permit for an Islamic Cultural Center a couple blocks from the World Trade Center site.

I made a sign the night before. On one side it says, "Magic Baby believers, STOP PICKING ON Magic Rock believers!" On the other, I inform the Used Tea Bags (as I like to call them -- because they're all wet) that we have this thing called the Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion and prohibits an established church. A number of people liked it; near the end of the event, someone took a picture of the first side, calling it the best sign she'd seen all day.

There were a number of other homemade signs, including "Atheists for religious tolerance."

It'd been a few years since the last time I came to an out-of-town demonstration -- since January '07 I think. As I've struggled with finding a way to fulfill my need to express myself politically while maintaining a strong sense of autonomy -- and, especially, avoiding association with anything too reminiscent of my past cultic involvement -- I didn't want to commit ahead of time to riding on a charter bus run by a sectarian group, which often seemed the only affordable way to get to NYC or Washington.

Fortunately, while making plans to get to the cultic studies conference in July, I became aware of how affordable the nonstop Chinatown-Chinatown buses are, and the fact that one need only arrive twenty minutes ahead to be assured of a seat. Round trip from Philly to NYC is only $20, about the same as a ticket to ride on a charter bus, even after figuring in a few extra dollars for the Metro. This knowledge freed me to save the date without having to make any commitments in advance; I just had to see if I could leave enough money in my budget to cover the cost, which I was able to do.

My new orientation meant that I was also trying to pursue the development of my interpersonal skills even at an out-of-town event like this. I made a particular effort to start conversations with attractive women; even though it seemed an outside chance, I entertained the idea that if I really hit it off with someone, I might be invited to stay overnight, and here again my new transportation option gave me the needed flexibility to take advantage of that. With this in mind I also brought a Red Bull shot with me, as I've used previously only in connection with clubbing.

As people were leaving the rally site, I did briefly consider going to the afterparty that had been announced, but I was reluctant to because I had only a few dollars left in my budget and there might not be sufficient free food at said party if I got hungry again. Not that I couldn't have gone over budget -- borrowing against future expenses -- but it seemed ill-justified for the sake of an outside chance. Was this prudence, or avoidance? I don't know, but I intend to have more to spare next time I face a choice like that, so that I won't need to second-guess myself.

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