Saturday, January 28, 2017

Marching the Good March

Anne and I didn't know just what lay ahead at the Women's March on Washington, but our flight from the West Coast to the East Coast two days before encapsulated the possibilities.  Would it be like the three female passengers who wore their pink pussyhats with quiet pride, or would it be like the 30-something blonde woman who picked a fight with a flight attendant and was met by police upon landing?

Anything seemed possible.

We stayed with friends in Virginia, Theresa and Overton, who had no interest in watching the inauguration the next day.  "It's not happening in my world," said Theresa, and I admired her ability to block out the crowning of the Cheeto.

Theresa drove us to a Washington Metro stop, and Anne and I gazed at the many folks in "Make America Great" hats and red, white and blue attire, obviously returning from the inauguration.  On the train I watched a young teenager attach and reattach his bow tie over several stops, part of a family bound for an inauguration ball.

Our second train was crowded, and as I struggled to maneuver our suitcase I found myself at eye level with a button celebrating Trump's inauguration.  The owner was a middle-aged white man.  A couple of stops later the guy leaned forward to punch an African-American woman in the back as she got off the train.

She turned around and said something I couldn't hear, and he said, "You bumped me!"  In that second where things were about to go nuclear, I grabbed the hood of the man's sweatshirt.  He was surprised; I was shocked.

As he stared at me I said, "Down.  Bring it down," and I made a lowering gesture.  He said, "Nobody ever apologized," and then, "I wasn't talking to you!"

True enough.  I looked away.  The doors had closed and the woman was gone and Anne was ready to pass out.

A few stops later a young African-American woman we'd been talking to before the incident murmured to me, "Thank you for doing that," as she got off. Her words broke my numbness.  I was still alive.  Cool.

At the home of our friends Meg and Angela, we met Tammy and Daute from Oklahoma City.  During dinner that evening Tammy spoke of feeling isolated in her activism.  When she told people at work she planned to participate in the Women's March on Washington, someone asked whether she'd been training. Tammy was baffled.  Turned out that person thought the March was a 5k race.

The next morning Anne and I donned the pussyhats friends at home in Seattle had knitted for us and set out with Meg, Angela, Tammy and Daute.  As we neared the Capitol, I remarked that I hadn't been to Washington in 30 years and, "It does take your breath away."  Without missing a beat, Daute replied, "Now it takes your rights away."

At some time at some place in Oklahoma, the spirit of Will Rogers took up residence in a Native American-Latina lesbian.

We snapped a picture together, which was a good thing, because we would soon lose each other.


This would also be the last time till evening that I stood in anything resembling open space.

As we dallied with a lesbian political group, I watched hordes of people go by. It became clear that there was high enthusiasm and high creativity.  I started noting down signs.  Among my favorites from the day:

         --Women Are the Wall and Trump Will Pay
         --Electile Disfunction
         --Urine Over Your Head
         --Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
         --Find His Horcruxes
         --Keep Your Tiny Paws off my Lady Drawz
         --Shh . . . Don't Tell Him About Snapchat
         --Save Time:  Impeach Now
         --No Cuntry for Old Men
         --Elizabeth Cady Stanton is my Patronus
         --We Shall Overcome, not Overcomb
         --We Are the Granddaughters of the Witches You Could not Burn
         --You're so Vain You Probably Think This March Is About You
         --Sex Offenders Can't Live in Government Housing

And then there was a balloon that read "When They Go Low, We Go High."

We walked toward the rally and then squeezed our way forward, trying to get close enough to hear, which is how Anne and I got separated from the other four gals.  Over the next three hours Anne and I stood, or inched forward, two fuzzy hats in a sea of fuzzy hats.  Behold the pinkness:



We caught the occasional word and eventually whole sentences from speakers ranging from Ashley Judd to Michael Moore to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, "This is the moment of the beginning of the revival of the women's movement."

From her New York mouth to the goddess's ear.

Muslim-American Linda Sarsour, one of the March organizers, spoke for me when she said, "I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this president."  Not even a wee bit.

Transgender activist Janet Mock spoke, and when Janelle Monae performed with African-American mothers of victims of violence, she included a trans woman, saying "an injustice done to you . . . is one done to me."

Including everyone in a political rally is a beautiful thing.  Including everyone in a political rally is also a time-sucking thing, and the rally went way late.  "Time for the benediction!" hollered a young woman next to me.

Finally someone on stage told us where to march, and off we went.  Precisely where I'm not sure.  We just flowed along with the pussyhatted crowd, eventually striking main streets, including Pennsylvania Avenue.  The march itself was packed, while others lined the route and filled up the roads to the right and left.  I mean, this event was yuuuge.



There were women, men, children, all ages, every hue, gay and straight, from every part of the country. Marchers responded to the chant, "Tell me what democracy looks like!" with "This is what democracy looks like!" and it would've been hard to argue.

Other popular chants included, "Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!" and, "We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter!" which turned out to be not as tongue-twisting as you might think.

At 3:15, early in our march, I texted friends from Maine I hoped to meet up with during the day, but they had already returned to their local digs.  I never connected with my cousin from New Jersey, or any of the two dozen folks from our church in Seattle.  That's how it went for everyone I talked to.  With such a huge mass of humanity, finding people was impossible.

Except for our Virginia hosts, Theresa and Overton.  At the rally, they realized they were standing next to their neighbor.  Call it a March Miracle.

Anne and I walked and walked.  She had a terrible cold and I didn't think she'd last that long, but buoyed by the chants and signs and anger and resolve and people we met, she kept trudging.  We were buoyed, too, by the knowledge that we had friends and relatives marching that day from Boston to San Francisco.  Anne had already gone weepy over a text from our ten-year-old niece, who said she was marching in Olympia, Wash., so Anne and I could stay married.

Here we were marching for the next generation, but it was already marching for us.  Sniff.

Eventually Anne and I reached the Trump International Hotel.  I've never seen so many people flip off a building.

Throughout the day we didn't encounter as many police as I expected.  At one point we passed national guardsmen, one of whom said we marchers were wonderful.  My fear of a Trump-inspired militarization came to naught.  At least on this day.

Around 5:30 we marched into a restaurant.  Positively giddy that we hadn't needed the porta potties all day, we now found life's essentials:  bathrooms and pizza.

Later that night at Meg and Angela's place, Tammy said she was so proud to hear that some 10,000 people marched in Oklahoma City.  Maybe now nobody will confuse a Women's March with a road race.

A week after the Women's March on Washington, a week in which Trump has proved he's as awful as we feared, the experience is still much with me, even in odd ways.  Yesterday I found myself thinking, "I need to put in a load of laundry THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!"

Apparently I'm in no danger of forgetting the lessons of my day with the pink pussyhat posse.  And I'm keeping my pussyhat for the next time it's necessary to herd cats.