If you don’t count the pep assemblies I went to in high school (go, Bulldogs!), I haven’t attended very many rallies. But I went to the rally for clean air at the State Capitol last Saturday, because like a lot of people who live and work along the Wasatch Front, I’ve had enough. Stick a fork in all of us, because we’re DONE, and I’m very glad I went because it was everything a rally should be.
There was chanting: “Clean air! No excuses!”
There were gas masks and surgical masks.
There was music.
There was clapping.
There was singing: “This air is my air! This air is your air!” and “The air outside is frightful!” and “Oh, Governor, we cannot breathe.”
There were speeches — some of them fiery, some of them funny, and some that (I have to confess) I couldn’t hear because as it turns out my junior high health teacher was right: If you go to a lot of rock concerts at the Salt Palace during your teenage years, you will be deaf in at least one of your ears by the time you’re my age. But whatever. I totally agreed with what I did hear.
What else was going on?
There were American flags waving in the breeze.
There were dogs — border collies, poodles, labs, golden retrievers, setters, mutts, Chihuahuas, pit bulls, huskies and at least one Great Pyrenees.
There were dogs with signs (see photo).
There were signs about dogs — “My Dogs Want to Hike and Play in Clean Air.”
There were signs without dogs.
There were, in fact, lots and lots of signs, and they were awesome. They said things like “Air Pollution Is Pornography” and “Smog Lake City, Utah” and “I Love the Smell of Smog in the Morning” and “Heavenly Father Made Clean Air for a Reason” and “I Like Breathing — How About You?” and “Got Asthma?” and “1 Red Air Day = 10 Cigarettes” and “Air So Bad Even Statues Wear Masks” and “I Like Tacos” (because, come on — who doesn’t?).
And, of course, there were people. Lots and lots of people.
Babies in backpacks. Babies in strollers. Toddlers. Elementary-age schoolkids chasing each other and rolling down grassy slopes. Teenagers texting. College-age students. Young mothers. Young fathers. Couples. Singles. Grandparents. Hipsters and hippies. Not-hipsters and not-hippies. People on bikes. People on foot. People who used public transportation (thanks, UTA, for shuttling people to the Capitol on a Saturday). Educators. Health-care professionals. Realtors. Lawyers. Booksellers. Legislators from both sides of the aisle. Citizens from all walks of life who just want to breathe clean air.
Clean, pristine, green, unseen, crystalline air. Is that really too much to ask?
This was the most heartening thing to me about the rally: the fact that so many people — and so many types of people — would gather on a Saturday afternoon to speak out with a common purpose. Because this is how change happens — when people from different backgrounds can sincerely welcome one another.
Then stand together to make a statement.