Last month, I traveled across the country to march with thousands of others in Washington DC. My daughter, my daughter-in-love and three granddaughters went together, driven to stand with others not just in protest to the 45th President, but to protest his racism, misogynism, and every other stand against humanity. I went with the attitude of supporting what I believe our country stands for – civil rights, equal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. It has taken me several weeks to process my week on the East Coast, from DC, to New York, to Richmond, VA and back home to the West Coast. I’ve experienced highs and lows and am coming out of it, ready to tell my story.
We flew out of the Vancouver, BC airport. It’s closer to us than Seattle, so less time to get there, providing there’s no hold up at the border. I already wonder if that will change in the future. We had a layover in Ottawa. While sitting at the gate, we met a young woman traveling with her mother. It appeared that they too were headed for DC. As we made conversation with them, asking where they were from (Washington) and then what city (Bellingham, but really Orcas Island!) we enjoyed talking and learning that the young woman knits small animals for sale to raise money for an animal shelter. Talking with strangers when traveling is always fascinating!
On the plane from Ottawa to DC, I sat next to a young man who was born in Mexico. He and his family immigrated to Canada when he was seven. He was going to the Inauguration because it was an historical event. Just going out of curiosity. He had a week off from work and planned to see the sites, including going up to New York.
We were met by an old friend of my DIL’s, from college days when she lived and worked in DC. She dropped my daughter and I off at a friend’s after we made plans to all meet at the Metro station in the morning. My friend was a student of my husband’s back in 1980/81 and had graciously invited us to stay with her and her husband.
Friday morning we were up at 7 to Metro into DC. We had a variety of plans for the day. My daughter and the grands had decided that they wanted to be at the Inauguration. The crowds were huge, the lines were long, and the security was tight! My DIL and I decided to sit it out so we split up with plans to meet up later in the day, having no idea what time that would be! We found a Starbucks in a lobby at a Holiday Inn and found comfy, warm couches and settled in for the duration. There was a big screen TV, broadcasting CNN to a group of about 20 of us.
As we sat there, a voice behind me said, “I’m better on a horse than these modern conveyances.” Quote of the day! I turned around to see a man dressed as a Patriot from the 1700’s. I asked if I could take his picture and he said sure. He put his cell phone down and I said he had to be holding his cell phone up. I loved the contrast.
Roads were blocked off, museums closed and the crowds were thick. The security was tight, but the officials were all very friendly, happy to provide directions, quite calm, but obviously alert, on guard.
My friend’s husband had worked for Homeland Security and was “in the know” about security for the weekend. He had advised us to be on the lookout for people who might pull on black masks, etc. and told us to turn around and walk in a different direction. In reality, DC was probably the safest place in the country that weekend with all the security in force! The only disruptors we saw were in a line on Independence Avenue, carrying giant signs, broadcasting with megaphones about how we were all sinners, homosexuals were damned, etc. etc. We see these same kinds of protests at home at our public market and in front of Planned Parenthood offices. So, 15 or so disruptors out of thousands of people.
Although cell service was sketchy at times, we managed to make a plan to meet up at the flagpole in front of the L’Enfant Metro station and it worked. We all found each other! We then Metro’d to Foggy Bottom and had lunch at a wonderful restaurant named Roti.
My daughter went home with her family for the night and I returned to my friend’s home. She and her husband supported Trump and I did not. One of my biggest take aways from this whole experience is that I think people who live and work in the DC area have a much better understanding, probably from their circumstances of being in the thick of it, of how to have differences of opinion, to find commonality, to treat one another with respect. My friends and I talked about the day, watched some coverage in the news, and I felt like I gained a new perspective from their descriptions of what they thought our new President would bring about. I admit I come from the bubble of liberal politics in the Pacific Northwest and I really appreciated having congenial conversations.
The next morning, my friend’s husband (this trip was the first time I had met him though he grew up in the Northwest also) drove me to the Metro station. I asked him if he would have ever imagined several months ago that he would be driving a feminist to a Women’s March and he honestly replied, with a smile, a long drawn out “Nooooooo”. He continued on to say that he supported my right to protest and stand up for what I thought was right and that of course how he voted was only known to him. Truly, staying with my friends for this weekend brought things into a different perspective, one I am very grateful to have had.
As we approached the Metro Station, my daughter texted that the lines just to fill Metro Cards were about 30 minutes in wait time. It was packed! Solid! Quite different from the day before. And a sea of PINK! The atmosphere was joyous and so positive – just looking around and knowing we were in a crowd of like-minded folks. Wow! The train was packed and at several stops no one else could board.
There was some confusion as to where we should head, but it was easy to just follow the crowd. There were two streets that converged in a V and we headed to that point. There were large speakers along the street and several large screens. We chose to stand where there were speakers, thinking we would be heading out to march soon. In reality, we stood there for about 5 hours listening to one amazing speaker after the next!
As we walked to where the beginning of the march was to be staged, we encountered lots of interesting people. Here is a shot of a guy from Texas, and an artist who invited my 16 year old grand to join in painting – a collaborative piece he assured her. My daughter bought his collage painting of Obama.
I’m sure you can Google and YouTube videos of many of the speakers. These are my highlights only.
America Ferrera: We learned in Berlin that walls don’t work.
Gloria Steinem: This is an outpouring of true democracy like I’ve never seen… The Constitution begins with We the People. We are united for bodily integrity…to control our lives without government interference. God is in the details and Goddess is in the connections. This is a day that will change us forever. We stand together. We are never turning back. (Personal note: yes, we are changed forever! Our world has changed!)
Some quotes are just quotes because I didn’t hear the introduction so can’t properly attribute. And some are just phrases I heard that grabbed my attention.
The power of being in truly righteous community.
Radical love is a step past the easy path to the path of greatest reward.
This is not one off, this is an uprising of love. Choose it everyday
Michael Moore: End Trump carnage. If you just look that way, (assuming he’s pointing to the crowds) we accomplished it! What do YOU hope to accomplish? His 5-point plan:
- New daily routine, call Congress everyday and tell them what to do.
- Join the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL
- Form rapid response teams of 5-10 people
- Sorry, I couldn’t hear this one over the crowd
- Take over the Democratic Party. The Old Guard has to go. We need Young People. Women. Go to 100daysofresistance.org
Ashley Judd read a poem
Janet Mock spoke, “I am my sister’s keeper. I must be. Approach intersectionality with inclusion. A movement is more than a march. It is the space between our reality and vision.
Sister Simone! (I saw her speak at our Unitarian General Assembly in Providence, RI. She’s amazing. Wrote the book Nuns On the Bus.) “We’re not alone! We’re together regardless of whom we define as our neighbors. We are all neighbors. We can bridge the gap in division. We share the one story. Exercise joy. Claim passion. Know your neighbors. Share. We the people make a difference.
Cecil Richards from Planned Parenthood. “We’re not gonna take this lying down. We’re not the problem, we’re the solution. Now is time to link arms. As HRC said, ‘Reproductive rights are human rights.’ We will not go back. We’re a movement that is unstoppable.”
Sierra Johnson, Director of Reproductive Rights spoke of gender equality for all.
Donna Oakley, a former political prisoner. “I am you. You are me.” She was 27 years in prison and was let out 5 years ago. She still recites her prison number. She calls into this moment all women who are marginalized.
Emily’s List spokesperson. “Run for office or support a sister running. “
The Senator from California is newly elected. “We are a great country. We are a nation founded on certain ideals in 1776. We are all equal and guaranteed certain rights. … You have the power. It is right to prioritize women’s rights and women’s issues. Good pay. Immigration reform. Crushing student debt. Black lives. We deserve equal pay for equal work, access to health care. This is not a particular demograph or constituency. This is we the people. We will rise to the challenge.
Alicia from NARAL. We will not be punished for owning our bodies.
Some man: Because of our women, I am a man.
Poem for daughters of a new day: My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter.
Sophie Cruz: Immigrant Rights. We are the chain of love to protect our families. We need love, faith, courage. Tell our children, “Do not be afraid. We are not alone.” Let’s keep together and fight together.
At this point, one observation I made, Sophie’s speech was the first speech not in English. It was in Spanish. I also saw a sign language interpreter at one of the big screens. There were efforts to make this March accessible, but really, in the crowds, pushing wheel chairs was quite difficult and the fact that it was all in English seemed sad to me. I know there were people with other first languages. People were polite about moving for those who had difficulty walking, but still…
Miriam Ali spoke! Her father was one of my husband’s and daughter’s heroes! Her comments were short and to the point: Don’t complain! Organize!
There were musical performances by MCLyte, Alicia Keys, Janet Manet (dedicated to LGBTQ community and Immigrants’ rights.) She also spoke, “Continue to be and embrace what makes you unique, even if makes others uncomfortable. This is ground zero of the movement.”
Angela Davis: We are collective agents of history and can’t be deleted like web pages. We are on indigenous land, people who haven’t relinquished their land and are peacefully, without violence with Standing Rock.
Max Love sang This Woman’s Love
Madonna spoke: To those who said this march wouldn’t amount to anything – Fuck You. We must love one another or die. She quoted a poet, “We choose love.” And then sang Holla Girls.
Here’s my family, with the Capitol in the background.
At the end of the march, we walked past the Trump Hotel. There were a number of protest signs propped against the fence. The police vans were there all day and we watched them ‘changing the guard’ at the end of the day. This was their staging point, not just to protect the hotel.
There were signs abandoned at the entrance to the Metro station.
This was an amazing day. Powerful. Inspirational. Full of insight. I had listened to Gloria Steinem on NPR just recently and have spent time reflecting on my history, the world I grew up in and the world I grew into. We have fought hard for so much just in the past 75 years. We cannot go back. We must not go back. As one line in one of my favorite hymns says, “For the children of our children!” My granddaughters are 21, 19, 16, and 14. This is for them!
We rode the train back, with thousands of exhausted but exhilarated companions! Across from us, was a mother with three children, who I am sure were still jumping around at midnight!
My friends had invited us, with my DIL’s host family too, back for a feast. And a feast it was! BBQ chicken
that my DIL said rivaled anything in Oklahoma, her roots. Pasta salads, homemade dinner rolls
that were enormous and a fabulous carrot cake! They spent all day cooking for us. Food is certainly an equalizer! The dinner conversation was stimulating as we had a lengthy discussion about the future of energy. My friend’s husband works in this field and the two younger grands threw questions at him about the future of energy in our country. Why don’t we use more solar, more wind? He gave great, comprehensible explanations and identified these two as the future of engineering! We all retired, exhausted!
Sunday morning, my friend and I headed up to New York. We went to see Wicked! On Broadway!!! It was so much fun to see places that are every day scenes in movies and in the news: Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Times Square. Her son is in school there and we had lunch with him and his ‘squad’ of theater buddies. We returned to their home Monday night.
Tuesday morning, we drove to Richmond, VA to see their oldest son inducted into the Navy. Her husband is retired from the Navy (my father also served in the Navy, WWII and Korean War). A family friend, a Navy Officer, conducted the ceremony. It was really touching and I was honored to be included and to witness this event.
On the way home from there, we went to Arlington National Park and spent about 3 hours walking through the cemetery, seeing the Robert E. Lee House. I was especially moved, seeing the Eternal Flame
and Kennedy family graves. Thinking of when JFK was President during my childhood, the impact of the assassinations was actually very sobering. Just thinking if only…
The next day, I flew home. From Toronto to Vancouver, I sat with a young woman who was from Dublin, Ireland. She and her best friend were moving to Vancouver to live for two years, work, and travel. We talked about politics, of course. And she has an invitation to call me anytime and I’ll meet her downtown at our favorite bar, Boundary Bay Brewery. Perhaps someday, I’ll visit her in Ireland.
The New Beginning
So, life has been busy, the same, different. I’ve been a bit depressed, a bit let down. I’ve been trying to keep up with the news, make phone calls, get back into my regular life, cardiac rehab with my husband, FB time with friends, more rallies and marches. Went to a lovely concert Saturday night with jazz and classical music by a local community choir. Finding it a bit of a struggle to re-engage actually. We’ve been a bit snow bound the past few days and that has actually allowed me to really process the past few weeks and begin to feel like I’m ready to take on the world again.
If you’ve read all this, good for you! I had to write to process it all. I hope you have found some entertainment value as well as inspiration and maybe even motivation to keep active and be a strong part of your community, this country and the world, for it is growing smaller and we are all connected, one way or another.