I wanted to sneak out during the pledge: An 11-stanza protest poem, photocopied on sky-blue paper, that was handed out after a chips-and-salsa meet-and-greet. This "pledge of resistance" was a prerequisite, to be read in unison, before the meeting started.

The Sunday, August 22, meeting, held in a community center on 19th Avenue East just off Pine Street, was the sendoff for about 10 representatives of the peace group Not in Our Name who were heading to protest at the Republican National Convention in New York City.

About 20 people had gathered in the parquet-floored center. There were a lonely podium and conga drums at the front of the room and a resources-and-propaganda table in the back: legal contacts, maps of New York City, housing info, and buttons for sale. The crowd was mostly late-30s and older, with graying ponytails, homemade anti-Bush shirts, tie-dyes, and political pins.

There was one youngster, sitting in the front row, who looked like a young Bob Dylan (complete with cap and brown suede jacket). He took the opportunity to sneak out during the band (remember the congas) that started playing after the "pledge of resistance." I stepped out after him. "You going to New York?" I asked. His name was Joseph Barsana, and he said he was still trying to raise $300 airfare.

I was surprised at how enthusiastic he seemed. He had looked glum, dour, and fidgety during the meeting. Standing outside, he lit up: "I founded the Young Democrats of Snohomish County," he told me proudly. Barsana, who, up close, looked more like a boyish Babe Ruth than Bob Dylan, had just graduated from Bothell High School last spring. "I live in the Ritalin-mind, video-game suburbs," he said. "The youth have to wake up and realize they're living in a police state."

This was a Democrat? The self-identified young Democrats I've run across this year--mostly goody-goody doorbelling, phone-banking, and sign-waving types--are typically fresh-faced Gap ad blonds. I tested him out. "Are you voting for Nader?"

"Oh no, I'm voting for Kerry," he said. Yes, Barsana was a Democrat. He just happened to be an 18-year-old Democrat from Bothell--where, judging from Barsana's air of exuberant defiance, the Democrats may as well be the Communist Party. For a second, my cynical disapproval of New York's mass demonstration--and my fear that protesters run amok, à la Chicago '68, will be a PR freebie for Bush--lifted. I found myself hoping Barsana raises that $300 and ends up in NYC representing the fledgling Snohomish County Young Democrats.

But when I remembered the folks inside, reality hit. The NION leader at the meet-and-greet had told me the group wouldn't be relegated to a "protest pen" on the West Side Highway and would certainly be heading over to Central Park. The group's seminar included legal advice about getting arrested. Unfortunately, getting arrested is the worst thing Barsana could do. It would be better for his potential Bothell allies (and Kerry) if he stayed home and doorbelled.

josh@thestranger.com

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