In the rain of Sunday morning they took to the streets of lower Manhattan, both sides of a mosque debate that will begin to slow down soon like a car running out of gas.
There were a thousand or so people there, some supporting the building of a mosque at Park Place and more opposing it, carrying signs about freedom and religion, speaking for God and about America at a place where just about every religion in the world lost someone on Sept. 11, 2001.
Somehow, even as this played out, the shouting back and forth near what they all call sacred ground, you had the sense the caravan is about to move on to something else, to something more relevant in the lives of those who live in all parts of the city.
Like perhaps J-O-B-S.
Some construction workers say they would not take on the job of rebuilding the old Burlington Coat Factory on principle. Good for them. Of course, others will move up in the line, because of something else sacred in New York: A regular paycheck.
Even before the demonstrations, so much of this debate had turned stupid, dumb and mean and loud, because all public debate eventually does these days.
Somehow we had gone past reasonable conversation about whether the building of this mosque is a practical - and sensitive - matter, and straight to train-wreck TV in Cable America.
This time it wasn't Sarah Palin leading the charge, the same yammering Palin who can dumb things down in ways that should be measured the way we measure fast times in the Olympics.
No, this time the gold medal went to Newt Gingrich, the front-runner in an awful lot of polls to be the Republican nominee for President in two years.
Gingrich showed up on a Fox morning show and talked about why the "radical Islamists" who want to build the cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, who want to show they can "build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamists," must be stopped.
"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington," Gingrich said.
He wasn't done yet, because the guy never seems to run out of saliva: "We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor."
So somehow Gingrich, who is obsessed with what he calls the "secular socialism" of Barack Obama, was now good and geeked up, high on religion and what he believes is his higher calling to lead the whole country.
Gingrich is a Catholic now, by the way, having decided that's not just the best way into heaven for him, but perhaps into the White House as well................................