An estimated 50,000 bikers entered D.C. this morning in a long line of chrome to counter the Million Muslim March (later changed to Million American March Against Fear) on the mall. The thousands of bikers acted as a foil to the march, drawing thousands of participants despite being denied a "no-stop" permit for their ride, and say they are riding to honor the victims of 9/11. Their message? That they're patriots who carry a message to the U.S. government: "They're not representing us in the ways they should be representing us," said participant Bob Buckley.
Unfortunately, both rallies miss the mark. Today's event should not just be about 9/11 commemoration (however valid and important), but about peace: about staying out of Syria, and about changing the way America conducts foreign and domestic policy.
The Million Muslim march is organized by the American Muslim Political Action Committee (considered by most to be a fringe group) and led by M.D. Rabbi Alam, a professed 9/11 "Truther" who has pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks. While AMPAC has "insisted that the march will be about civil rights, indefinite detention and countering inaccurate depictions of Islam and Muslims," the event's association with the Truther movement has helped make this an unpopular event, drawing only a few hundred participants rather than thousands (forget a million).
It would have been much more powerful if Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and cross-cultural groups had organized an event commemorating 9/11 victims and heroes, and advocating for peace internationally.
Instead, while the march and the ride come at an important confluence of anniversaries (the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Million Man March which passed on on August 28 and the 12-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks), neither group attempted to take up the torch or advocate for change.
9/11's tragedy was not restricted to the 3,000 directly resulting deaths, but extends into the present. We've continued to lose American soldiers, our armed forces continue to maim and kill abroad, and the U.S. is raising a millennial generation at home that has essentially been at war for the entirety of our adult lives. We have learned nothing, it seems, from the errors of our past, and sit on the eve of another potential war in Syria while simultaneously incarcerating and denying healthcare to our own citizens, veterans and heroes included.
A powerful event on this day should have been one that truly amounted to thousands of people marching for peace: for an end to militarism that costs so many lives worldwide, and against military intervention in Syria. It should have been a march of remembrance, as well as a demand to put the guns down.