Downtown View DC: The Bad and The Good

By Karen Cord Taylor

Susan and I took the train to DC last Friday with lots of people and returned on Sunday. We stayed at Lois’s house. On Saturday we three went to the Women’s March on Washington. We wore our bubble-gum pink “Nasty (old) Woman” hoodies. (One of us is 83—probably one of the oldest participants.)

Chatter about the march had been that the black and white women organizing it couldn’t get along. Some complained that protests over the rest of the country were distracting people from going to DC. The organizers weren’t organized enough to tell me how many people from Boston were attending, but there were many. That is expected, since Trump lost badly here.

The crowds were uncomfortable, and the Amtrak announcer kept telling people to take the first seat they could find because the train was full. The Mall was uncomfortably jammed, as were all the streets leading to it. We couldn’t hear the speakers. Some reports mentioned a Jumbotron but we couldn’t see it. The lines for the bathrooms were 50 people long. Any bare ground was muddy, so we hoped we wouldn’t fall. A grim-faced John Kerry walked through with his dog to a roar of recognition and gratitude. Why was he so grim? What was he doing there if he was so grim? Had he just come from a meeting at which he had had bad news?

We stood around waiting for the march to begin. Then we heard that the march route was so crowded that we couldn’t march. Then we marched anyway.

With all these problems, maybe it was not worth it.

It was one of the best experiences all half million of us had ever had. It was America at its best, the one we long for.

Kindness, first. It was like four days after 9/11 when I got on a plane. “Let me help you,” was what the few passengers on my plane said to one another. That disaster, like this one, had elicited a concern for one’s fellow human beings that normal life doesn’t produce. “Come get in line ahead of us,” shouted one young woman at the head of the bathroom line as she noticed the canes two of us carried. We didn’t take up her offer, but we bathed in her generosity.

Diversity next. This march was America. We were black, white, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, immigrant, citizen, tall, short, rich, poor, old, young, men, women, some from Montana, others from Michigan, lots from New York. We saw a trans band, a person of indeterminate sex covered with bangles and beads, a white guy in a kilt because he said, “I wanted to wear a skirt.” The welcome for this diversity came naturally to the march participants. It was hard for marchers to understand why so many Americans could not follow the basic Christian rule: “Do unto others . . .” that is fundamental to all religions. From what dark part of their heart had this distrust, this fear, this rejection of the “other” come? There were no dark hearts in this group.

Instead there was joy, bravery and determination. This crowd had gathered because of dismay, but no one was depressed. Like Americans throughout our history, these people were hopeful, brave, confident and joyful about their mission. They were not defensive or angry. The happy camaraderie made everyone feel safe. Every criticism of Trump was couched in humor or word play. On Saturday the Mall was the home of the happy and the brave.

This group was responsible. Remarkably, there was no litter on the ground. These people didn’t make life hard for neighbors. They were good citizens.

Comedy and inventiveness were the means. Americans have always had new ideas and new solutions. We pride ourselves on our fertile imaginations and ingenious solutions that build industries, businesses and civic entities. So there were dozens of signs filled with irony or word play. “I’m sick and tired of this PC culture treating everyone with dignity and respect.”  “Our rights are not up for grabs.” “Resist the normalization of ignorance.” “Pussy Power.” “#FreeMelania.”

There was also the acknowledgment that the way to annoy bullies is to make fun of them, make jokes about them and expose them to ridicule in as many ways as possible. The marchers felt a deep satisfaction with this response.

This was grassroots, not corporate. Not one corporation had been able to take over the event. Signs were home-made. A graphic had been created to provid a “brand” for this event, but more common were the original costumes.

What’s next? Watchfulness. More mockery. Donations to all the causes in jeopardy. Support for our Massachusetts elected officials in DC. Also pride in so many Americans demonstrating the inclusive, supportive attitudes that really make America great.

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