Sunday, January 22, 2017

"This is democracy!"

My sister-in-law, Cindy, and I attended the March on Washington this weekend. We rode there on a bus chartered by the Rhode Island Chapter of the March. Everyone who organized the March, nationally and our local representatives, did a wonderful job! The March was peaceful, there were no arrests, and there was no violence. There were just hundreds of thousands of friendly, helpful women, men and children brought together to be a voice for women's and human rights. There were far more men and children there than I ever expected.

When I decided to attend this March, my only concern was the crowd. I have had two really bad experiences with large crowds, and I was a little worried about being trapped in this one. Rightly so. Once we were in the thick of it, there was no escape. We could not see the edges of the crowd. It was the largest gathering of people I have ever experienced. I came prepared with my pee funnel and tissues, but I didn't need them. I drank a little, but not much. That was key to remaining comfortable in a situation that could be very uncomfortable. I had no idea where the port-o-johns were. I could see no way out at all. I decided to not be concerned with anything going into this March, and that is how I remained throughout.

Our crowd experience began on the Metro. It was so crowded, we could barely find a pole to hold on to. A nineteen-month-old boy in his mother's back carrier cried and was miserable. Once he saw his daddy, though, he calmed down and soon went to sleep. I was happy he did. It was not a good situation for small children, but I was happy to see this young family. There were many young women and men in attendance. Talking with them lifted my spirit. Groups of women led us in chants and song, which kept us laughing and in good spirits for the seemingly unending ride to L'Enfant Plaza from Tysons Corner. The cars were so crowded, people kept leaning against the doors which meant the train would not run and led to fifteen minute stops or longer at every station.

Exiting the cars, our numbers flooded out into the landing in search of enough lifts to get us up and outside. Most escalators were not running, so they were very long stairs. There were helpful officials directing us in a very efficient manner. We were in the midst of thousands of people slowly plodding along to the final immense climb up the still escalator to the daylight. My heart pumped for a long time after that climb. The wonderfully creative homemade signs and smiling faces with intermittent cheers made for a very festive atmosphere to keep me from freaking out about being trapped underground with no place to go.

Once outside, we just followed the crowd. We looked for our Rhode Island Concierge with the blue sash, but she was no where to be found, so we just went along on our own. We never saw anyone we knew and never marched with Rhode Island. As we walked towards the stage area, we could hear cheers in the distance. We flooded the streets and sidewalks to our destination, and once we arrived, we had no idea where to go from there.  We just went with the flow of people and decided it would be better to be near a jumbo-tron than just in the crowd with no way of knowing what was happening. We made our way to the corner of Independence Avenue and 12th Street by the Department of Agriculture, South Building, near a lovely arch. We were all frustrated that we could not really see well or hear the speeches or songs. But we made do with humoring each other. There was no cell service, so I couldn't text or phone our friend, Nancy, who wanted to meet with us. The only famous person I saw was Scarlett Johansson. Cindy happened to catch a glimpse of Michael Moore on a screen near the stage when we arrived. Then signs went up and we saw nothing after that. That's when we decided to find our way to one closer by our location.

Marchers were encouraged to bring food and drink to share. Cindy and I were prepared, and shared some of our snacks and an extra bottle of water with two children hunkered on the street next to their mother and us. I tried hard not to judge that mother for bringing her children into this situation with no food or drink to offer them. I let it go, though. This day was about sharing and being helpful. We stood there a very long time watching a jumbo-tron that stalled constantly and had intermittently working speakers.

After a very long time, the March began and we moved under those arches toward our final destination: The Ellipse (park) in front of the White House. There were fences and lots of open space between us and our new First Family's temporary home. Bands started to play and dancing Marchers sang in reverie and chanted in protest. We were inspired and very moved. There were banks and banks of port-o-johns with long lines at every one. People just kept coming and coming, and my feet and calves were killing me. I had to sit down on a bench.

Our friend, Nancy, was waiting for us at The Carousel in front of the Smithsonian Castle, but we couldn't get there in time to meet her. So, after finding a bench to rest and chat with a local woman, we went to The Castle to use their bathroom and have a snack. The line at the Smithsonian Metro stop was really long, but by the time we were ready to leave, we walked right in. Once again, officials directed us efficiently and we got back on another crowded train to return us to Tysons Corner. This time, we just chatted with those near us and there were no problems with long stops or doors that would not close. I chatted with a lovely Japanese woman who exclaimed, "Why is it that with every other job one must apply for, there are qualifications required, except for that of the President of the United States? Not only are there no qualifications or experience necessary, but there is also no vetting done on POTUS before he is given the job!" I had no reply, but she asked us all to be a voice for that point for her. I thought her request was very interesting.

We were exhausted at the end of the day, but inspired and energized by the energy of so many people gathered in one place. I marched in support of maintaining womens' rights and human rights. I want this country to move forward, not backward. I used my voice, and according to the news media, we were heard in The White House. My favorite chant of the day was, "Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!"