Amid a river of people shouting their anger, pumping their signs painted with false blood and black cardboard skeletons and pounding drums of discord against war, Leeann Simons was silent.
She stood in the heart of yesterday's anti-war demonstration in downtown Washington trying to untangle an internal conflict of emotions fueled by a war so far away and so close to home. She struggled to grasp answers to her questions. The enormity of war had overwhelmed her, she said.
Simons, 35, of Silver Spring, like other people at the protest, was ambivalent about the United States's involvement in the Persian Gulf War. And like many, her emotions were shaped by the fact that she has relatives too close to danger. Her sister, her brother-in-law and their four small children live in a town just north of Tel Aviv, not far from where Iraqi missiles have fallen.
"A part of me is saying, 'Look, do you want your sister bombed?' Part of me thinks I should be in favor of the war because now Israel has been attacked," said Simons, who taught nutrition at Pennsylvania State University before she and her astronomer husband moved to Washington in July. "But then a friend said, 'What about Kuwait? You don't care about people in Kuwait?'
"Then people say Israel would not have been hit if we hadn't gone in. Some people say that now that Israel is involved, you can't protest."
Simons said she decided to come to the march anyway, because she needed to be a part of something larger than herself and her confusion. "I need to do something. I can't give blood because I faint. I protest the inequality of war. We're asking 400,000 people to fight, and we're not being asked to give up anything," she said.
Simons said one reason she went to the protest yesterday was to show that not all protesters were against the troops there.
"I wanted to make it clear that there are not just a bunch of long-haired hippies going to protest Vietnam," she said. "These are a bunch of thinking people who are concerned."
Simons met a group of friends who had traveled to Washington yesterday from State College, Pa., for the march. Among them were a professor of mathematics who had marched against the Vietnam war, a professor of health education and women's studies who declared that women should have played a bigger role in the decision-making of war, and a man who was opposed to war but wanted to support his brother, who is a U.S. serviceman and believes in the necessity of force.
Simons said she needed to be at the march but not necessarily a part of the movement. She pointed to a sign denouncing America, using a four-letter word.
"See, I don't feel that way," she said. "I can't reduce my feelings to a slogan. That's the conflict."