Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Women Make America Great:The Women's March, January 21, 2017

Women's March, Jan.21, 2017, Washington, DC.  Scenes from the March, great signs, DC landmarks, crowds roar. Also, welcoming Rep. John Lewis as he came off a flight from Atlanta into a crowded National airport. The crowd burst into applause and loud shouts of thanks. Lucky my plane was late!
What a March! A women's march. An awesome experience of a lifetime. These old bones may be sore, because I put more miles on them than I have in years, all for one massive effort of protest, but my spirit was lifted up, way up! Women's voices united.

Suz marching, looking around to
make sure I was still with her.
I marched with friends Suz, an ethicist, and Virginia, a public health nurse, dedicated justice fighters, knowledgeable, savvy, thoughtful. Suz prepared a nice bag lunch for us, with bagels, fruit and water, and off we went.
Suz and me.
The streets of DC, where I had lived and worked for over 15 years for an agency marked for extinction, the National Endowment for the Humanities, overflowed with tens of thousands of women and supporters of all ages, races, nationalities, sexual identities. Diversity was its hallmark.

Lots of women I knew were here. Friends from across the US and from Sylvania, Ohio, my hometown; Peace Corps friends; old friends from my DC days, all here, all marching. I would love to have seen them, reconnected, but it was impossible to meet up.Too many people. Massive crowds so tightly packed in places as to make marching almost impossible. More people than I've ever seen at a protest in DC. I knew my friends were in the crowd somewhere, knew my sister Andy and brother Loren, my children and grandchildren were with me in spirit, too, and I found comfort in that. And what noise we made! Women's diverse voices raised to the strongest chorus America has heard in a long time.

A sea of pink hats, pussy hats, flooded the nation's capital with powerful messages: Women's rights are human rights. This takeover of our government by alt-right extremists, bought and paid for by billionaires, will not be tolerated. We are no longer accepting the things we cannot change; we are changing the things we cannot accept. Women deserve respect. We are resilient. We will resist all efforts to put us down and deny our rights, and we will support all efforts that promote harmony and real progress.We believe in the common good. We are stronger together.

And here's something I found amazing: The Women's March was largely a mob. That is, there were no obvious leaders to lead the crowds, no one directing the marchers, no big names leading the charge ahead of us, no banners marking off states or organizations, no signposts about the route, no monitors along the way to assure us we were on the right path or to offer help. We were just an overwhelming mass of humanity that walked and walked, shouted out slogans, chanted, held up the best signs I've ever seen at any march. We roared. Protested loud and clear. A peaceful mob. Women will have our say. We had our say.

I haven't walked this much in years. To and from the Adams Morgan rowhouse where I stayed, thanks to a kind stranger who offered a room; to and from the Dupont Circle Metro; to and from the long March. This old body was not about to stop me.
Virginia,our marching buddy.
. Looks like she's in front of tRump's hotel. Really, Virginia?

Suz, Virginia and I got to about 7th Street and jostled with a thousand and more people. "This is what democracy looks like," a few women on top of some fences shouted into the teeming masses, who picked up the chant. "This is what democracy looks like!" We joined them and walked to about 14th and Constitution, along the Mall, stopped in the Smithsonian castle (as beautiful as ever), walked past the the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture (interesting architecture and I was happy to see it for the first time), up to 17th and past the Old Executive Office Building toward the White House, where the March was supposed to end, where the marchers would join together with our messages to the current occupant.

But then we learned that the route had changed. Pennsylvania Avenue was blocked off by police. No marchers allowed. Police were adamant. No way. Marchers, though disappointed, remained peaceful, and resolute.

We looked at the White House, shrouded in grey mist, a house of terror to us now, a house of hate. Barack Obama,his family and dedicated staff were gone. It was occupied by a president and his cronies determined to undo Obama's legacy, and with more conflicts of interest than you could shake a stick at, more conflicts than ever before in our history. A president who denigrates women and promotes disunity and hate. It was heartbreaking.

The immense crowd paused, shouted slogans, waved fists, and wondered why, why had the route changed? Suz and Virginia were among those who argued with the police blocking the way. Others joined them.The police said the stands and stuff in front of the White House for the inauguration hadn't been taken down. It looked rather empty to us. A low platform lay on the street, but we could have marched over that. Suspicions grew.

The crowd hesitated, then kept going. Virginia, Suz and I, and the folks around us, had a theory: the trumpsters didn't want to see marchers in front of the White House vastly outnumbering the people who had been at the inauguration the day before. We knew instinctively that numbers really mattered to them. We knew it would lead to infantile tweets as well as "alternative facts."

Our instincts were right, but then we learned that the March organizers (whom we never saw, not a one!) had been sending texts to whomever they could in the sea of resisters to change the route, because there were too many of us, way too many people. We couldn't all fit in front of the White House. Close to a million, some said. That's when the marchers took off in any direction possible, to streets not even blocked off, into traffic that was kept waiting probably for hours. Determined. Peaceful. No violence, no outbursts.
Suz in pink.

I found myself in a group of several thousand heading North, away from the White House, away from the Mall, away from Pennsylvania, up 17th Street toward Adams Morgan. Good lord! I asked a few folks next to me where they thought they were going "Don't know," they shrugged, "we just keep walking!" That's when I decided to keep on walking straight to my room on Seaton Place, NW. It was almost 5:00. I was not far from Dupont Circle. I felt confident the crowd would find its way. I felt as if I was leaving new friends behind, saying goodbye to kindred spirits. A few marchers waved and I waved back, fighting back tears. Somehow I knew in my heart that the battle had been joined, and we would win the war, whatever it took, however long it took. I barely made it to my room, my hips throbbing, my knees, ankles and feet killing me, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was that I had been on the Women's March, one of the biggest protests for truth, equality and justice ever seen in America. The women of America stepped up and had their say, joined by people all over the USA and abroad. We were the majority, no doubt about it. We were the wave of the future.
I don't know who designed this
beautiful poster, but it sure
resonated with me.
The next day, Sunday, I could hardly move. I took hot showers, rested and read. Thank goodness a little cafe, once visited by President Obama and his daughters, was nearby so I could get coffee and snacks. My Peace Corps friend Jud invited me for dinner at his beautiful condo next to Van Ness Metro. I didn't think I could make the walk to Dupont Metro and back, but I pumped myself up and went for it. It was wonderful to see Jud again after some 5 years. I also had the pleasure of meeting his lovely and informed activist friends Bruce and Jan, down from Maine, where Jud had once lived. A great vegetarian meal and lively conversation, plus peach tea in the beautiful tea pot I remember Jud buying at the Istanbul Bazaar! I got on the Metro and walked to Adams Morgan, slowly, step by step, exhausted but exhilarated.

On Monday I was ready to go home, back to Sylvania, Ohio, via Detroit airport where my daughter Elissa would pick me up. I walked to Dupont Circle one last time, the heels of my feet sore as hell. I took the metro from the Red line to the Yellow line to Washington National Airport. It was a cold, grey, rainy day. The wind blew ominously. It almost blew my umbrella inside out and me away with it. The streets seemed silent, but somehow not the same. Some energy had risen, and I needed it. I made it to the airport and collapsed at the first seat available near my gate.

The airport was jam packed, as if those crowds diverted from Pennsylvania Ave had found their way here. I learned that a storm, a 'noreaster, was wrecking havoc along the East coast, and that dozens of flights had been cancelled the night before. Weary marchers were still waiting to get home, plopping wherever they could. Not surprisingly my flight to Detroit was delayed, too.
John Lewis comes off a plane from 
Atlanta, into an adoring and loud crowd.
 Photo by Monica of Texas.  
I was just about at the end of my rope, my almost 77-year-old body complaining, when I heard the crowd stir. A murmur, then a roar. We were shoulder to shoulder near the Atlanta gates, which apparently bore the brunt of the delays. Another roar went up. What the heck? Then I saw: Rep. John Lewis had just stepped off an Atlanta flight, returning to DC for a busy week ahead in the U.S. Congress.Yes! John Lewis.There he was! OMG.The airport burst into applause, shouts and chants. The marchers had continued from the streets of DC to the airport. I looked John Lewis in the eye, struggling to get a photo as people surrounded him for selfies. I wished that I had a real smart phone, dammit. I couldn't get close, but I shouted, "We will carry on the fight, we won't give up! Ohio is with you!" He gave me a high five, and a big smile. Oh what a smile! My heart swelled with respect, so honored to be in this great man's presence.

What a perfect ending to the Women's March.

An hour or so later, energized, feeling blessed, I moved toward my gate to catch my flight. Then, another wonderful surprise. Walking towards me off that Detroit flight was my own U.S. Representative from Toledo, Ohio, Marcy Kaptur! She saw me and we shared a big hug and a few words, enough to know we were on the same page. We would be fighting together.
Looking at the crowd on the Mall,
through the graceful door of the Smithsonian Castle.

If my plane had been on time, not over three hours late, I thought to myself, I would have missed out on these wonderful serendipitous crossings. How amazing to be at the right place at the right time, to enjoy the moment. No matter how exhausted I was, I could not have been happier, could not have felt more hopeful. We, the women of America and the world, the doves of peace, the diverse warriors of justice all over the world, we are with you John Lewis and Marcy Kaptur, with all our Senators and representatives who will resist the onslaught, with all people of knowledge and discernment, and all activists who resist tyranny and fight for justice. We are the wind beneath your wings. We are indeed stronger together.

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