Leader: Show me what democracy looks like!
Crowd: This is what democracy looks like!
This was the chant of the day, repeated like a mantra as I marched on Washington for the first, and hopefully not the only time.
I started the day at Autumn & Dan’s house, where Autumn made breakfast and coffee for the five of us (Lindsay & Kai were there as well… Lindsay of “don’t look, but that guy over there is David Sedaris” fame). In order to avoid parking issues, we parked in Alexandria and walked to the Braddock Street Station, where crowds were staggered going up the escalator so that the train platform wasn’t overcrowded. It took a while to get upstairs, but once we did, it was a festive atmosphere. Every train that came through the station was already jam packed, and only a few people from Braddock could get on at a time. And every time a train left the station, the cheering and whooping and hollering would start all over, because it was one more train headed to the march. I don’t know how we managed to get all five of us onto a train at once, but we did, and as I whispered to Lindsay, “if we were any closer, we’d have to get married.” I also told her that of all the mental health issues I have, I am glad that claustrophobia is not one of them. The crowd was so tight it was hard to breathe, and I am sure that both weight and number limits were exceeded by a large margin. No one cared… or if they did, they were too polite to say so because they recognized what a gargantuan feat was being pulled off yesterday.
I have to give a YUUUUUGE shout-out to WMATA, because lines were long, crowds were frustrating, and they did the best job they possibly could… because let’s face it. No matter how you plan for something like this, there is no easy way to get 400,000 people around a city. I hope they made enough in fares to cover the extra trains, because it was so gracious of them to step up frequency and open early.
Though it continued to be more and more uncomfortable with every stop, because like I said, no one was getting off the train, we made it to Federal Triangle unscathed. From the moment we entered the station, the streets were just as crowded as the train. We tried to find alternate routes, but with that many people, there were no alternate routes. We made it to The Mall, where we could breathe and walk around. If you see pictures of The Mall, you’d think that the protest wasn’t that large, but it was actually on the surrounding streets, with onlookers packed onto the steps of every federal building and Smithsonian museum. I hope that I was able to capture the spirit of the march on my Facebook feed, but I wasn’t able to get high enough above the crowd so that everyone could see the scope. It was massive…. just absolutely crazy busy with activity. The people, united, will never be defeated.
The best (non-offensive) sign I saw was I’ve seen better cabinets at Ikea. To me, the worst protest yell was hey hey, ho ho… Donald Trump has got to go. The reason for this is that Mike Pence is an actual legislator, and I think his rollbacks are even scarier than what Trump might do…. conversion therapy, funerals for every abortion, shutting down federal funding for women’s health even though none of that funding goes toward abortion, etc. Although, who am I kidding? Whether it’s President Trump or President Pence, there will be a lot of changes because the legislators around President Trump know for sure that he has no idea what he’s doing, and will capitalize on it regardless. The second-best sign I saw, which rang so much truth it hurt, was we are the 51% minority.
As I “walked,” I wished that President Obama could have remained in office while we tightened cybersecurity and voted again. If Trump won again, fair and square, it would at least be what the people wanted instead of the proven ability of Russian intelligence and the possibly infiltrated FBI to sway an election.
All of the sudden, The Americans doesn’t seem like a TV show anymore, but a documentary. All you need to know about the show, and you can watch past seasons on Amazon Prime Video, is that it is about KGB operatives pretending to be Americans embedded in the DC suburbs to look as normal as possible, despite doing things like bugging a clock in Caspar Weinberger’s office. It does not take place in present day, but it seems as if history is repeating itself as the “woke” and politically active are doomed to watch.
Dan brought up the point that it was a shame that we weren’t protesting for anyone. It’s not like anyone from the administration showed up to listen. In fact, as we passed Trump’s hotel, there wasn’t a single face watching from the windows out of curiosity. However, the power was not in getting the administration to listen. The power was having almost half a million people show up for safe space, peaceful congregation that no one could take away from us. It made us all feel better that President Trump’s awful deeds did not represent us, and there was no way we were going to stop fighting. There will be more protests, but this was a “welcome to your first full day” present. If you look at the pictures from the inauguration, there seemed to be an exponentially larger crowd right at his front door.
Not only were there Americans walking the streets, but Canadians who’d driven or flown down, and a contingent from Ireland as well. I am sure that many more countries were represented, but the Canadians were wearing easily identifiable maple flag clothing and the Irish had protest signs to make them equally noticeable. I also wished that somewhere, somehow, the Obama family was watching, not able to attend because they would have been mobbed… not in a bad way, but more like people attaching themselves to their pant legs and begging them not to go. The Secret Service could never have prepared enough.
The police and military presence was on point, not there to interrupt but to observe, and I thanked the military (as I always do) for their service. At one point, the car that was parked in the middle of all those people was called away, and I couldn’t help but think that of all the units they could have called, the car stuck in the middle of hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t have been my first choice. It was slow going for them because there was no room to move out of the way. And first, all the protest signs had to be removed from the windows. The cops joked with us that the signs had to come down because they’d been called away, but we weren’t the ones they were worried about in terms of turning over or burning out their car.
It was amazing how many different perspectives were represented, from listening to religion over science to pro-choice to immigration and welcoming the stranger in accepting refugees. There was not one message, but ALL THE THINGS. It felt good not to be a single-issue march, but solidarity in all beliefs.
As an INFJ visionary, I was constantly reminded not of how things are, but how they could be. Even I was astonished at my ability to rise above my introverted nature, willing to join in because I knew I was making history and writing about it all day in my head. I wished I had Wil Wheaton’s “I’m Blogging This” t-shirt, but it was too cold at some points to wear it without layers. At others, the people were so jam-packed that I had to take off my jacket and sweater, because even though it was in the 40s, the crowd was so tight that body heat was radiating everywhere.
I sort of felt bad that I hadn’t bought an outfit especially for the march, but I did try. I was walking through a store and found the perfect long-sleeved t-shirt, which said “Fight Like a Girl….” However, it was not in the women’s section and though boys’ clothes fit me, girls’ clothes do not. They did not have my other perfect t-shirt, a famous conversation between Mia Hamm and her coach:
Coach: You run like a girl.
Mia: If you ran a little faster, you could run like a girl, too.
Women power was self-evident, empowering and humbling at the same time. I took all my women friends with me, the angels on my shoulder. Dana and Argo and Notorious and The L___nator and Lindsay and my mother. I carried them with me in spirit, because the idea of carrying them physically was just too funny… a lot of ass and a little shoulder.
There were so many people I wanted to see that I just didn’t run into, impossible in a crowd of that size. Giles and Zaid brought their male babies with a sign that said “Two Dads, Two Sons, Four Feminists.” For those just joining us, Giles was my voice teacher at University of Houston, and I couldn’t be prouder that he’s here now… one of the people truly trying to make a difference. Giles’ home country is Canada, and though there are plenty of Conservatives there, I wonder every day what our country would be like if our Conservatives, like theirs, could just get past the politics of kindness. Universal health care, women’s rights, and gay marriage are done. There’s no fighting about it anymore. How far along would we be as a country if those things were settled as well?
I am pretty sure that they would be had the Republican Party hadn’t just been bodyslammed by crazy, trying to convince people that Donald Trump is a Christian with those values at heart. I think the Two Corinthians would disagree. What the pro-lifers don’t seem to get is that with universal health care, the fear of bringing a baby into the world in poverty is alleviated, thus resulting in less abortions. It seems as if pro-lifers think that all people who seek abortions are well to-do and using abortion as mere birth control, not trying to avoid a situation where a mother cannot possibly take care of her child. It has always been my belief, echoed by others, that if Republicans were really so concerned about children’s lives, they’d be lined up around the block with bottles and blankets for the poor children already here… never trusting the science behind abortion, trusting in their religion that life begins at conception, when Judaic law offers so such limitation. I believe that the “point of viability” argument is a reasonable compromise, with the exception of aborting fetuses that would never survive outside of the mother’s womb. As Molly Ivins pointed out, there are no mothers who don’t anguish over a late term abortion, as if they waddle past a Planned Parenthood clinic after carrying a baby that long and deciding parenthood just isn’t for them. When we talk about late-term abortions, we are talking about children whose brains and organs have not developed, not carelessness.
I also don’t understand why you can’t be pro-life and pro-choice at the same time. Pro-lifers seem to equate pro-choice with pro-death, and try to legislate all women’s choices for them. For a lot of people, including cases of rape, an abortion is just not something they can wrap their brains around, but at the same time, believe wholeheartedly that it is not their job to make those choices for all women, because they cannot imagine the situations under which abortion might make sense for others, and don’t want or need to try. It’s not their job, and they know it. Just because those laws have become popular does not make them correct.
Even Barry Goldwater (AuH2O) tried to warn us:
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
The Religious Right is neither, and we are fighting a “divine right of kings” mentality. It’s one of the reasons these marches are so important. The Republicans may not be listening, but it’s about getting people fired up for change, especially in the Midterms, where checks and balances might be restored. People are beginning to pick up the phones and call their Congressmen, even people who hate the phone, because it is far more effective than an e-mail or a letter.
My feelings about this are muddled and clear at the same time, because while I am all for getting in touch with Congress, it feels like two years is so far away. I have never felt more disenfranchised and more powerful at the same time.
It’s only been a few days, and already I am exhausted…. but not a fatigue that will stop me from joining the fight. Hope is not dead, and Jesus dealt with governments much worse than this (the Sanhedrin & the Romans). Especially as an introvert, my Jesus is distressing me out of my comfort.
We ended the day debriefing at Los Tios Grill, which is never bad.