WASHINGTON - Walking among thousands of friendly Latino protesters in the nation's capital Monday, I couldn't help getting caught up in the group-hugness of the occasion.
What with red tulips sprouting everywhere, temperatures hovering near a perfect 75 degrees, and spring-green sprouts coaxing creatures to do-si-do, Yo queria a todo el mundo!
"Oh golly, Mr. Noah," my inner Pollyanna exclaimed, "can't we just build a bigger ark?"
And then Rep. James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat who apparently was channeling Che Guevara, startled me from my dream state. His voice, ragged from the strain of sustained high-volume rhetoric, thundered platitudes as a woman translated into Spanish.
"You do not become American because you're lucky enough to be born of wealthy parents," he hollered unnecessarily as his voice was amplified through several speaker towers erected along the National Mall. "You become an American by working hard and providing for your family. By that definition, you are true Americans."
"Si se puede!" roared the crowd.
Moran and others who spoke, including Sen. Ted Kennedy and a raft of religious leaders of various denominations, gave the crowd what they wanted to hear. And the people were appeased.
The unmistakable, if largely inferred, message of the day was that Americans who want a secure border and a strict immigration policy are selfish nativists. And the Latino immigrants, many of whom are here illegally, are noble souls who want only a fair break.
Moran was on a roll:
"Do they (law-and-order citizens, presumably) not understand that America didn't become great by building walls around its borders? Do they not understand that American did not become great by creating another underclass? ... You are shaping America's destiny...."
And then he launched into the someday-your-grandchildren's-grandchildren fairy tale of how the U.S. became a great nation thanks to the Latinos who demanded amnesty on April 10, 2006.
(Never mind those white guys who wrote the Constitution and created the most prosperous nation on earth.)
Despite Moran's fiery entreaties to rouse the rabble, the crowd was notably polite, while the event more closely resembled a Fourth of July picnic than a protest. I haven't seen so many American flags since Sept. 12, 2001.
And while most chanted "Si se puede" ("Yes we can") in response to trigger phrases, the spirit of the day was palpably optimistic, cooperative and at least outwardly patriotic.