Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women's March on Washington

It was one of the best days of my life.

But it happened because of some of the worst days of my life.  On November 8, I was gut-punched and betrayed by 46% of the voting population.  They had elected a compulsive liar, megalomaniac, and admitted sexual predator... and that doesn't even cover the horrifying things he promised to do to people, from Muslims to women in crisis pregnancies to people who had entered this country as small children without the proper paperwork.  How could I have had such high opinions of my fellow Americans? How could I have had faith that they wouldn't throw other people under the bus, when it served their own interests? I was devastated. I cried on and off (whenever people couldn't see me--cuz I believe in trying to be a reassuring presence....
"Does this mean we will have a nuclear war?" sez my 12-yr-old on Wednesday morning.
"Oh no, dear," sez I smiling but red-eyed. "People say a lot of things during a campaign. They don't mean anything.  He will do some things we disagree with, but there won't be anything like that.") for days.

Several days later, a friend and I were talking about how badly we felt about the election.  Even though we took comfort in the fact that he had lost the popular vote, we were still terribly disheartened by the number of people who had voted for him, in spite of his promises to harm the lives of so many.  How could so many of my fellow Americans be so awful?
"I just don't know what to do," sez I.
"Well, there's the Million Woman March on Washington," sez Debra. "They're marching the day after the inauguration. It's on Facebook."
"That's a start," sez I.

When I got home that night, I was feeling happy... as though there might be a way forward for hope after all.
"They're having a women's march in Washington the day after the inauguration," I told my husband.
"They're stupid," he responded.
"I'm going," I sez.  (But I didn't invite him.)

By the time I RSVPed, the Million Woman March was being called the Women's March on Washington, and several groups had joined together to help make it happen.  They were working hard to make the march diverse and inclusive and not just a negative march about protesting a person.  They wanted the march to promote human rights of all sorts (through the lens of women).  I was impressed (See their Unity Principles:

When I told my mother I was marching, she was thrilled. She had been horrified by the election results too.  And she was so happy to see people standing up for human rights.
"And everyone will be marching together, at last!" she sighed... remembering some of the infighting between civil rights groups from the past.
"Yup," I sez.... deciding that there was no need to mention some of the painful and occasionally counter-productive debates that had been swirling about during the planning of the march.  We're humans... we're going to squabble.  But the center was holding... and this march was going to happen.

Three of my kids decided to make the trip... my two daughters and my middle son. My youngest son considered going... but I discouraged him. He is only twelve, and I was fairly certain (knowing him) that he would be bored and tired and hungry pretty quickly.  Probably that was the right choice.

I discovered that my oldest daughter's high school (Olney Friends' School) was sending a contingent of kids, and that Sidwell Friends' School was letting them sleep in their gym Friday night, so I hopped into their caravan.  Turns out we are only about 5-6 hours drive from D.C.  By midnight Friday January 20th, we were all sleeping on gym mats in our nation's capital. By 8am Saturday, we were walking the three blocks to the Metro station for our ride downtown.

It turns out that women, and the men who care about them, are really wonderful human beings.  At the Metro station, a nice woman gave us all "Pussy Power" buttons, which we wore with pride all day.  There was laughing and joking and joy in the underground... even while we were waiting to buy the extra two Metro passes we needed.  Folks had come from all over, and we all chatted like old friends.  The trains were packed. If there was a word that meant "beyond packed," I would use that word.
"Sorry about your butt, Debra," I sez. "That's me."
"That's OK," she sez.  (Her pussy hat, by the way, was probably the most beautiful and elegant one there.  It had a flower in one ear.)

So we walked out of the underground and into the crowds. And there were more and more and More as we walked.  And we were all talking and smiling and laughing and happy.  We tried to get close to the stage and the Jumbotrons, but there were so many people that we didn't have a chance.  There were blocks of people in front of us, pressed so tightly that you couldn't see the ground in front of you.
"Let's see if we can get to that tree," I sez, as we joined a conga line of folks snaking slowly into the crowd.  We did. It didn't help.
"Let's see if we can get to that other tree," my daughter sez. We laugh. We gave up on the stage, and joined a conga line headed outwards.  Occasionally, a roar rolled through the crowd.  We could hear it build somewhere a long way off, then travel towards us, then wash over us as we lifted our voices to meet it and carry it onward. Once, the woman I was following in a conga line winced and waved her hands in the air as the roar overtook us, as though she were a liberal Friend "clapping" during a Quaker event.
"I'll bet you're a Quaker," I shout.  She turned with her eyes amazed.
"How did you know?!?!" she sez.
"Quaker hands," I laugh, and demonstrate.  "Ohio Yearly Meeting. Stillwater."  She smiled so broadly.
"Mphsmwk meeting," she sez.... but it's too late to hear her clearly, as our conga line gets broken and we lose each other in the crowd.

It went like that all day.  We met people and chatted and took pictures and talked and stood in line for coffee and sandwiches and ate and joined smallish marches that were happening spontaneously along the streets.  The National Guards smiled at us; many wore daisies in their lapels.  Debra had brought Maalox, just in case, for pepper spray.  She gets to save it for next time.

When the "real" march began, we were so many that we could barely move.  We ended up taking over what I think was three parallel streets, all headed for the White House lawn.  We held our signs high.  We laughed.  We roared.  We chanted.....  "Welcome to your first day!  We will not go away!" and "We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!" and call and response....  "When Black lives matter... All lives matter!"......
"My Body, my choice!" sang out the women.
"Your body, your choice!" sang out the men.
"That's wrong," sez I, to no one in particular.  "Men have a body and men have a choice too."
"Yep," sez one young man walking next to me. "That's why I do the 'my body, my choice' part, too."
A man closer to my age stops dead in the street.
"That's... that's... I just had a paradigm shift,"  he sez, looking stunned but happy.
We walk on.  I have to admit to myself that the high voices of women calling and the low voices of men responding gives that call and response a beautiful musical quality, even if I think it is a little misleading.

It was a glorious day. We surrounded each other with friendship and support.  We showed each other that we were not alone.  That the world is full of folks who agree with us about what is important.  We did it with style and grace and irreverence and joy and hope and defiance.  I didn't cry once all day.  Not even "wedding tears."  Too much awe and wonder for that.

On the way back to the Metro, a mummer's parade passes by, complete with brass band and people on stilts.

It was foggy and misty driving home, and I was exhausted.  So we stopped about an hour outside of D.C. for the night.  At the Burger King, an older black man smiled at me.
"I woke up this morning, and turned on the tv," he sez.  "What I saw gave me hope."
He had been at the Million Man March in 1995.
"And you know, all those congressmen, they left town," he sez.  "They were afraid of what we'd do. It was a beautiful march."
We chatted about the Million Man March a bit, and then I told him that I hadn't seen any pictures of the Women's March yet.
"You'll feel good," he sez.  "You'll feel really good.  I felt so much better watching it."
I blinked back a few wedding tears there.... so that was what we had done.  We had borne witness for hope.  Not just for ourselves, but for one kind elderly black man.

We watched CNN until one in the morning.  I was amazed and happy.  And then, CNN brought on a guest.  A woman who had voted for Trump and who had attended the march.  There she was in her sparkly red, white, and blue, with ribbons in her hair, and some "Fuck Off" caution tape tied to her wrist (a bunch of teenagers had rolls of the stuff at the march... wrapped all over).  The moment I saw that "Fuck Off" flapping at her wrist, I knew I would like her.  And I did.  She was kind and joyous and friendly.  She talked about how important human rights and women's rights were.  She talked about how kind-hearted the new president was and how we would all see that it would be ok.  And I felt the kind of sad that you feel when a friend has gotten into a relationship that will only break their heart.  She restored my faith in Trump voters.  America is Great.  We do have better angels inside us.  We are kind and generous and accepting.  We can get through this.  Together.  Cuz sometimes good people make bad choices, but never forever.

I decided, watching her, that my model for the next four years would be Y2K.  For years before the year 2000, programmers and IT folks and others worked feverishly to make sure that our computer systems wouldn't collapse on January 1, 2000.  January 1 came, and only a few minor tiny glitches showed up.  "HaHa," folks laughed.  "See? There was nothing to be afraid of." And the programmers et. al. heaved an exhausted sigh, knowing that the only reason it all worked out was because they had worked tirelessly to make it so.  We can work to keep the next four years survivable.  We can do this.  And if it means that a precious kind bubbly woman doesn't get her heart broke, so much the better.

When I got home, I called my mom to tell her all about the march, how I felt so much better, seeing us all there.  How I felt that we could do anything. How we were going to get through these years OK, and we were going to be stronger and better and fiercer and kinder and braver, all at once.
"Write it down," She sez.  "Write it down."
So I did.

Get active to survive what I believe to be an existential threat to our country and to our government:

The Women's March has resources:  (100 Days, 10 Actions)

FCNL is a great resource as well:

Get active.  We are beautiful, and we are strong.  We can do this.

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