Thursday, February 2, 2017

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

Hopefully, you have already read my Nov. 14, 2016 post, “If You REALLY Know Me” – about my decision to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.  If not, you might want to scroll a couple of posts back and refresh your memory.

I was excited about participating in such an event!  I’ve never been very politically active (aside from voting in every election since I was registered to vote).   This was new territory for me and I felt it was important to take a stand for my belief in equality.

During the weeks prior to the March, I received a lot of information about what I needed to carry with me, the route of the March, and safety precautions.  I began collecting a few items, though I knew I wanted to travel light.  I packed  a clear plastic backpack with some necessities:  a couple of bottles of water, some protein bars, hand sanitizer, my notebook & pens, an extra battery pack to charge my phone, and a rain poncho just in case, and a black sharpie marker. 

I was on the first of 4 buses out of Columbia.  I know there were at least that many out of Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Rock Hill, and Charleston.  That's just the ones from SC, and just the group that chose to go by tour bus.  Many others traveled by plane, train, and cars.

We were about an hour's drive outside of the Metro Station in Virginia that we were taking into the city when I looked out the windows of the bus and realized that we were in a convoy of buses, as far as my eyes could see in either direction.  

When we arrived at the Metro Station, I wrote important telephone numbers (my family members) on my arm with a black Sharpie pen – this was a safety recommendation.  I put my on my pink crocheted cap, hoisted my backpack over my shoulder and stepped off the bus. Off to DC!

The Metro station was packed with people, most wearing pink hats, many carrying signs.  The crowd was moving but it was definitely a crowd, very noisy with thousands of different conversations going on.  Then ONE VOICE rang out:  "This is what democracy looks like!"  And it spread like wildfire!  That Metro station was RINGING with the chant -- I got shivers (and I am STILL getting shivers, typing the memory).  Over and over, the walls were echoing it.  “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”   

I went with the flow of the crowd (God help you if you tried "swimming upstream!")  to Constitution Avenue.  I was about halfway down, smack in the middle.  If you know where the Air & Space museum is, I was standing in the middle of the street in front of it.  There were jumbotrons and speakers all along the street for several blocks; I was not able to see a screen (there was one not far behind me but I gave up trying to get around to see it) but I was able to hear it.  EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.  There were several speeches, all were fairly short but each had a definite point. 

Of course the media grabbed hold of Madonna's rant and Ashley Judd's very graphic poem (written by a 19-year-old) so I figure you may have heard or read PART of it.  But I urge you to go to youtube and listen to their ENTIRE contributions. Listen to their words in the context of their complete messages.  My favorite speakers were Gloria Steinem, America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, Michael Moore, Muriel Bowser (current mayor of DC),  Alicia Keyes, and Van Jones.  There were a few others that I liked but I didn't catch their names.  I took notes.  Yes, I had a notebook and a couple of pens (surprise, haha) and wrote down a lot of what I heard that I found profound or interesting or informative.

The crowd was a “melting pot” for sure.  A line from an old song I learned in Sunday School many years ago kept ringing through my mind:  “Red and Yellow, Black and White” --  because you could SEE people of all colors.   There were several men in the crowd too.  I kept thinking about how almost all of our ancestors were strangers here at one point (the exception being Native Americans, of course) and that the majority of us are all descended from immigrants.  I saw entire families together, multi-generational groups.  Moms and dads, kids and grandparents, groups of friends.  

I stood in one spot pretty much from 9:30 am until about 3 pm, then I HAD to move around.  We tried to actually MARCH -- but THERE WAS NO ROOM!!  The entire street was full of people, so we could not actually GO anywhere!  (What a problem to have, right??)  I did manage to get with a wave of people and go part of the route -- we were supposed to march down to the Ellipse, back yard of the White House -- but like I said -- there were people already flooding the street down there.  I've never seen such a huge mass of people in my whole life.  

SPEAKING OF THAT -- no arrests made.  Not a single one.  I didn't hear anyone arguing, nobody was pushing or shoving.  If you dropped something, 5 people tried to help you pick it up (I know this first-hand).  The atmosphere was friendly, helpful, excited.  I think we all knew we were there for the same reason, to send a message that Hate Is Not OK

The SIGNS.  Oh my goodness, they were wonderful.  I tried to take pictures but my vantage point was not great.  I’ve seen online a lot of the same posters I saw, plus many more.  So many creative ideas were used to share our message.   The signs covered several different topics, including equality, the environment, LGBTQ rights, rights for people of color, and yes, there were a few that were anti-current Republican president. One that I spotted was carried by a little old grandma in a wheelchair.  It read:  "OH NO. Now you've pissed off GRANNY!!"  
I knew I had to get back to meet the bus by 5, so around 3:30 I thought I'd better try to start making my way out of the crowd and back on the Metro train (the Metro ride was about a half-hour).  Again, I was with a crowd of folks that were all going the same direction.  The group we were with was still buzzing with energy.  I got a little confused and got on the wrong Metro train (I boarded the Silver line when I should have gotten on the Blue line), but I figured it out in time to get off at the next stop and re-route.  I boarded the shuttle bus to go to the food court and who should be sitting there but a friend from my hometown in NC.  Imagine going somewhere hundreds of miles away from your home, being in a crowd of nearly 400,000 people, and running into someone you know!  

We were exhausted by the time we loaded the bus for home at 8:00 pm.  I tried to sleep but couldn't sleep much, maybe 2 hours of the 8-hour ride home.   We reached the Harbison area 4:15 am, I got in my truck and drove home, an hour’s drive away.  I took a hot shower and was in bed at 5:35 -- I think I was asleep at  5:36!  Didn't get up until nearly 11 the next morning.  

In the days since the March, I’ve thought a lot about what I saw, heard, and felt. I saw pictures and videos of other Sister Marches across the country and around the world.  Many of my friends participated in some of those Sister Marches and I felt proud of them and of all who took part in them.  I’ve answered questions (some friendly and some hostile) about my beliefs. I’ve expressed my concerns to my governing officials and I will continue to make phone calls, write emails, and mail letters. Hey, I even joined Twitter!  

The biggest “takeaway” to me, though, comes through the chant .  You see, THIS really IS what democracy looks like!  It takes people actually getting involved, working together on causes that they believe in, voting – to actually make our country work.  Regardless of what “side” you may believe in – it takes coming together, compromise, and participation for the voices of “We The People” to be heard.  Politics is not dry and boring at all – it’s alive and affects our lives every day. 

For me, taking part in the Women’s March on Washington was a big day in my life, one that I will remember forever.  I hope my children, my grandchildren and maybe my great-grandchildren will remember with pride that I was there.  It was the largest single protest in US History.  Sister Marches took place in every state across the United States and in several countries around the world.  According to the website,  there were 673 marches, with a total of 4,876,700 people marching around the world!  In Washington DC alone there were around 400,000 people – and I was one of those!
I made memories.  Hopefully, with time, I will help make a positive difference in the lives of all of us.  Even so --  I MADE HISTORY, along with others world-wide!

No comments: