September 17, 2020:

"The people... united... will never be defeated!"

A small march in downtown L.A., a few hundred participants, on a Saturday in blazing sun. CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity With the People of El Salvador, educating Americans that the death squads are real, the people are tortured and raped and murdered on mass scale, the U.S. government is more than complicit, it's effectively in charge, and it's our responsibility as American patriots to live our national ideals by opposing national policy.

I'm jubilant. It's just a march, we're merely walking, but our bodies count for the cameras, so that by merely walking we make our statement, that Americans with morals exist and are organizing.

I bring boxloads of materials back to campus. CISPES fliers, smuggled videos of Salvadoran troops randomly executing students at the UES in San Salvador, Maryknoll materials on the murdered sisters including Jean Kirkpatrick's memorably straightforward admission of what's at stake: "The nuns were not just nuns. They were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear about this than we actually are." At first I distribute these only in the Johnston dorm. Granted the right-wing politics of the University as a whole and my history of threats from the frats I'm leery of causing or being the target of violence. Eventually I'm approached by many University students expressing solidarity or at least interest. I'm thrilled and relieved when the teach-ins I organize are well-attended and peaceful. There could have been no predicting.

Of that early CISPES march I remember the hot sun, so hot the asphalt street felt sticky underfoot. The blackness of the road, the sense of purpose and solidarity of the participants. My own relief at, finally, doing some small useful thing. From here forward, school feels less like preparation, more like obstacle.