I Was There: Women’s March 2017

I need to write it all down before I forget a moment of my walk inside American history. The signs. The faces. The feeling of being part of something great, this Constitution, which Trump’s election taught me I love more than my life. In going to the march, I thought I might be risking my life. Honestly, before leaving, I thought I might not see my freshly painted home again. I was dreading the march, but knew that I had to go. It’s all about integrity. You stand by what you believe in or you are empty.

As it turned out the KKK, Nazis, and assorted deplorables I expected never showed up, or at least left their cause to a single flatbed truck with giant letters T-R-U-M-P that drove slowly across the crowd at the end of the route. Big, brash, and threatening given recent terrorist attacks, it disappeared into a sidesteeet. Given the mood, the crowd would have walked over and around it, careful not to topple the letters.

There were marchers as far as the eye could see — at one point at the intersection of three wide Washington streets. Tributaries of pink hats merging into one wonderful pink sea. We passed buildings we normally see on national news or in history books. Beloved neoclassical marvels of grace and rational thought.

Bystanders both participated with signs of their own and cheered us onward. These were the chants.

As we left the mall, a song: “This Land Is My Land, This Land Is Your Land.”

One group asks “What does democracy look like?” A second group responds “This is what democracy looks like.”

Everyone chants “We need a real leader, not a crazy tweeter.”

At the Trump hotel that used to be a federal building: “Shame, Shame, Shame.”

“Black lives matter,” over and over.

I remember bits and pieces of other chants: “Immigrants are welcome.” “Dump Trump.”

Most of the signs were handmade and very creative. I remember:

“Demonstrating is patriotism.”
“The unpresident” with a picture of ….. him.
“Orange lives don’t matter.”
“Don’t tread on me,” a reference to an early American flag. In place of the snake in the center field was a uterus.”
“This pussy bites.”
“We’ve been protesting this shit for hundreds of years.”
“Free Melania”
“Keep your little hands out of my uterus.”
“Science matters.”
“Make America think again.”
“I’m with her,” a reference to Hilary’s campaign slogan but with arrows pointing everywhere.
References to Trump’s treasonous relationship with Putin. Drawings of Trump and Putin kissing. Another was a French play on words: “Trump L’Oeil” with drawing of Trump turning into Putin.
“Girls just want to have fun…..ding for Planned Parenthhood.
“Ignored facts don’t go away.”
A very large paper mache earth (carried by a crowd) referencing Trump’s failure to understand and act on dangerous environmental issues.

My “sign” was my pocket Constitution. I held it high. It was my main reason for marching. I believe Trump is a threat to our Constitution, and in particular the First Amendment. America is not an ethnic group, a flag, a place, or even a language. It is this document I love.

The march was peaceful. One woman leaned into a police car offering food. “Are you hungry?” she asked the officers. I was in a group that walked around a police cruiser. As we wound to the rear, we noted the police men were police women and we all cheered. They acknowledged us with wide smiles.

Every moment was exhilarating as I unabashedly, loudly stood with and for values of liberal, progressive, inclusive politics — the same that brought us social security, public education, equal rights, environmental protection, and unemployment insurance,and moved us toward universal healthcare.

I will remember every mesmerizing moment, but most particularly, toward the end of the march, the first time I saw the size of the crowd behind me. When you are in that large a gathering, your view is very small. A circumference of maybe 10 feet. Finally we turned a corner, and there was an incline in the road, on which people stopped, looked behind them, and snapped pictures. When I got to there, I too turned around. The mass of people along the mall stretched as far as you could see. About 200 feet away, it merged with another mass to my left. I bent forward, shoved my arm up in a victory salute, and said “Yes!” Many people were applauding.

This image will stay with me until the day I die.

FAQs (Here I interview myself.)
Q Is it true all the marchers were lesbians?
A I am not a lesbian and I am not in the habit of asking strangers about their sexual preferences. I will say that none of the 500,000 to 1 million women in the March would sleep with Trump. Maybe to him that is a lesbian. I frankly would call it taste.

Q Is it true that the press exaggerated the numbers and that there were only a couple thousand participants.
A No way. A couple thousand would not cripple the transportation system. Even though we had tickets, we couldn’t fit on the MARC train into D.C. Trains kept passing by full. The line just to get on the platform extended to the taxi drop off. I asked the MARC guy at the station about going in the opposite direction into Baltimore, but he said there were 3000 people waiting there and to forget it. We had to take an Uber into town for $180, and then we walked blocks to the Capitol. We could not get near enough to the rally to hear the speakers. The wait for the Porto potties was one hour.

Q Why didn’t you vote?
A I was with two other adults. We all voted. I was a voltunteer for Hilary. As for the other million or so, consider this. Would people civic-minded enough to travel sometimes thousands of miles (among those I met, from California, Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, Ohio), sleep on a friend’s couch, take a bus at 3 a.m., or stay miles away like we did, then spend a day in the damp cold without food, decent plumbing, or a place to sit down other than the muddy ground and a few benches, and finally wait hours for a return train, would these people forgo voting?

Q Aren’t you all just whining, sore losers? Accept the election.
A The march was peaceful and far more respectful of Trump than he ever was of us. We accept the election, but we oppose and will continue to oppose policies that do not reflect our moral, political, and religious values. We will express opposition by protesting, contributing to causes in which we believe, and supporting candidates who will develop progressive policies. We will defend those whose Constitutional rights are threatened. This is not whining. This is taking action. This is democracy. This is patriotism.

An Open Letter to Trump Voters

Dear Trump Supporters:

First, in response to the Trump supporter who complained that people at cocktail parties were treating him as, let us say, less than intelligent.

Hmmmmmm, for years I have been treated that way in many business settings, so I say what so many right-wingers have said to me and other women: “What. That’s just normal. Stop whining.” Or as a Trump supporter recently put it when I dared to criticize a particularly sexist meme, “Have some whine with your cheese.”

Since Wednesday, you have absolutely no right to complain about what I say or how I say it. I can say what I feel and to hell with your feelings. You have redefined political discourse — mean, ad hominem, crude. And the mean guys won. I want to win next time, so let the mean begin.

I think I’ll call you bozos. Nasty? Hey, don’t you have any stamina? I’m just a nice person who speaks with such honesty I sometimes say rude things. I will pause here so you can look up the big words from the previous paragraphs.

So do I really believe bozos are bad? Some of you — the white hooded people and the scrub cuts from Milwaukee who never learned to bend their knees — you clearly have no conscience or empathy for anyone or anything. Please, goosestep yourselves to hell. Or better, let’s lock you up! Lock you up! Lock you up!

But to those of you (especially if you believe yourselves to be Christian) who just thought Trump’s flirtation with fascist thought and his complete lack of empathy for the unwhite, unmale, and undocumented, people who pray to Allah rather than God, wasn’t really serious, I want to say you are responsible. Naivete in the information age is no excuse.

I repeat, you are responsible. For the children (and I happen to know one of them) who tearfully ask if Mommy or Daddy is going to be “kicked out.” For the federal workers, who spent their lives in service to you, now fretting over losing their jobs. For the the millions who today believe they might lose their health insurance. For the pain, the tears, and the anxiety now and especially in the coming months. For my dark skinned friend who got accosted on his way to work by one of you bozos yelling as he drove away “Are you a real American?”

Are you real Americans?

Grief the Day After

I remember my my Mims (short for Mimere {French for grandma}) the Thanksgiving my Gramps (short for grandpere{grandfather) died. She made the big dinner, and the air inside the house was humid with the smell of boiled onions and French-Canadian stuffing. Just as we were about to eat, Gramps came into the living room, pale, settling into his beige chair in a shadowy corner of the room. I was 10, seated on the floor in front of the chair. “I don’t feel well,” he said. “I think I’ll just have a bun and gravy.” There was a pause followed by a flurry of activity. After mild protestation Gramps climbed into a car bound for North Adams Hospital, and I and my sister were left with my older cousins and an uneaten dinner. None of us felt like eating, but we tried.

I would never see Gramps again.

The adults returned later trying to feign normality,but I felt something bad was happening. I walked next door to be with Mims. She was sitting at her black and white table,on an orange plastic chair, pulling meat off the largely uneaten turkey for soup. It was a ritual that this year consumed her conscious mind. She moved slowly, always focused on the next bone, the next piece of meat on that bone, the next motion to pile the meat in a bowl. We made small talk my Mims and I. But she could not stop, or glance up too long. She had to keep going.

Grief is heavy and hard. Love or hope or dreams gone, leaving a cold, sharp iron claw in the place joy should be. It weighs tons, and carrying it, you move ever so slow.

And I feel that grief today. And like my Mims, I have buried the pain in a ritual of work, my laundry. After campaigning hard for the Dems, knocking on 60 or more doors, having pleasant conversations punctuated by the rudeness that is now part of the Trump brand, I am doing my laundry, then ironing, then hanging my clothes neatly in order by color. I cannot glance up from my labors lest I see all I have fought against and suffered with all my working life — packaged as it is in a old, ugly, fat dimwit serial adulterer foul-mouthed orange bump of a misogynist and new leader of the Western world. To his right, the KKK and the American Nazi Party. To his left, a new form of Christianity that has rewritten the 10 commandments and the two great commandments into thee: thou wilt cut taxes for the rich, thou wilt outlaw abortion, and thou wilt not allow gay marriage. These commandments must be somewhere in some form of the New Testament but were somehow left out of my Catholic version.

Have to go. Laundry is dry.image

To Vote With Wet Eyes

I drove to Town Hall for early voting through a fall mist, using my not-quite-yet-caffeinated brain to rewrite the lyrics of popular songs with a “nasty woman” theme. Then I started choreographing dances to accompany the songs, imagining that I would share them with friends.

The comedic mood ended as I pulled into a a side street to park. I frequently compare grief to a black bird flying over your head, casting a dark cold shadow. But this strange wave was was different. It came from within.

I saw women from old archival footage with signs, their faces too blurry to remember. Their marching strides contrasting sharply with long skirts and lace. Mocked, heckled, derided, marching for the right to vote, to control their own bodies, to work for equal pay. Faces. Margaret Chase Smith. Elizabeth Dole.

I saw me. A swirling sore memory of being mocked, shut out, humiliated, ignored, passed over. My first boss running his hands up and down my body, and all I could do was run when I heard his voice.

Then it struck me. I am here to vote for a woman for president. Yes, I knew this months ago with my brain, but not with my heart. Over the years, it has become unacceptable to talk “feminism,” so I buried the memories, the hurt, the anger, and maybe even the dreams.

And I just wiped myself off and moved on, sometimes haltingly, but always giving it (whatever it was at the time) all I had. So many years in business, and I never did quite make it to vice president. My fault maybe. Maybe not, and I will never know.

In the line to get a ballot, there was an older woman in front of me. Her long grey hair braided in the back, she was small and fragile. “You’re not on the voters list,” said the woman running a ruler down the list of registered voters. “It must be some time since you voted.” The would-be voter gave a weak nod. Another poll worker escorted her upstairs.

“I have tears in my eyes,” I told the the woman as she looked for my name. “I know,” she said. “That happened to me.”

I looked for a booth with good light so I could take an historic picture. I pressed the black flair hard on the dot to the right of Clinton-Kaine, because somehow the black dot wasn’t dark enough or big enough. Then I snapped a shot with my iPhone.

Back in the car bound for work through the shards of orange leaves, the tears lingered. I kept thinking that there was something familiar about the line of voters handing in their ballots. Did I meet them before? Maybe in a campaign or a protest. With the exception of one person, they were all women.

At work I started talking. The younger women were shocked about my first-boss story. Then I remembered I’d better shut up. I moved on to my nasty woman songs, and they gladly joined in.

It was not an everyday, but an historic day, ending for me with a lesson, a conclusion, a blessing. In the end, and it could take a long time to get there, people who brush the mud off their faces and keep going prevail. No matter who wins this election, I think we p—–ies have won with nothing given, everything earned. And God bless and protect the U.S. Constitution for making it so.

pic_voting

How to Thank Veterans … by Voting. Please.

My dad, Corporal Edward A. Clermont, volunteered for the Marines when he was 17. He was one of the poor guys hitting the beaches on those deadly landing crafts during WWII, Pacific Theater. Of his unit of some 300, he was one of two who survived. Once he said he was walking with two other guys when a shell landed, turning his two friends to ashes in front of his eyes. To his dying day, he jumped at sudden sounds as if they were life-threatening … a balloon pop, a spilled glass of milk, a slammed door. In a way, he never left the front lines. He died there.

I am remembering him today, and his compatriots, many of whom never reached adulthood. Each would use different words to explain reasons for the greatest of all sacrifices, but all I think all would mention freedom. And yes, today we will salute Veterans with flags and guns and songs, fittingly. But what about tomorrow? Will Veterans Day be like Christmas; one day we tear up at the birth of a guy who taught love of neighbor and the next day cut someone off in traffic while avoiding eye contact?

Democracy demands eternal vigilance, and Dad met that challenge. A patriot in the true sense of the word, he never missed an election; not only did he vote, but usually stood outside the polls, sometimes in pouring rain, to campaign for a candidate. I also remember during the McCarthy trials his pounding his fist on an old green chair, and dialing up our congressperson to just “Stop it.”

We best honor our veterans by my Dad’s kind of active participation in the government of the governed, which is what freedom is. Active means not only volunteering for service, but also paying taxes rather than thinking of clever ways to avoid them (veterans benefit money does NOT come from private donations), participating in elections, and most importantly, voting. I don’t care if you agree with me or not. I’m a Bernie girl, but to Trump supporters everywhere, I promise the respect due to fellow citizens who care enough to do something about it. To all candidates of all parties, thank you for your willingness to serve.

To fellow citizens, just get out there please. Argue without calling names. Find the facts. Debate the issues as if the young people who sacrificed their lives for your right to debate were listening to you. And finally and most importantly, take a few minutes — just a few minutes — out of your day to go to the polls. The enemy is not the foreigner or the opposing viewpoint; it is the lazy unthinking cynical nonvoting American.