As I sit down to write this, I am both exhausted and exhilarated. You wouldn’t think that a 60-hour trip, in which 28 of those hours involved sitting on your ass on a bus along with zero seconds of running (nod to running! in a running blog!), would be taxing. But you would be wrong. And I’m not complaining.
The trip began in a lovely K-Mart parking lot in scenic Donelson at 7:00 a.m. where the 55 “Nashville Nasties Go to Washington” group would pile on a bus and take off for D.C. There was already a moderate number of women in hand-knitted Pussy Hats gathered around some reporters from Channel 5 when we arrived. Honestly, the reporters looked kind of cranky and baffled. When I walked over they were pointing their cameras, mostly, at a young boy holding a sign reading, “I Vote in 2024, and I’m Watching.” I guess that seemed more innocuous to them than attempting to talk to highly-caffeinated adult women about issues (but, in reality, it’s not).
The drive from Nashville to D.C., one I made more times than I can count back in my strident hippy folk singer days, is truly beautiful the entire way: through rolling farmland, then the Smokies, and on into the Shenandoah Valley. It was a remarkable backdrop for hours of conversation, music, and vague naps. Around lunchtime, we were somewhere near Bristol, TN, a well-known hotbed of liberalism and political watchdogs (lolz). Everyone went to different restaurants, and somehow Cheryl and I and several other women ended up in one that had one thousand TVs tuned in to Fox and the inauguration.
Certain visuals did not help with digestion:
Others jettisoned beverages through nostrils:
Just as we were finishing up, the Fox “News” “reporters” suddenly became super-verbose about all the “many, many” rioters near the parade route. Film of trash can fires, tear gas, and hipsters running around waving their phones in the air was shown over and over. This was a little unsettling, particularly as the reporters, nearly urinating themselves with excitement, kept wondering aloud, in tones of dire concern, how bad the riots might be the next day at that women’s gathering. FFS, Fox.
The miles flew on by with a Meryl Streep (overrated, Hillary flunky, SAD!) movie and the discovery that there was far more boxed wine on board than originally imagined. Things deteriorated a tad when the trip ended up taking about 3 hours longer than planned, and we didn’t get to our rooms until about midnight, with a 5:15 wake-up call in the wings. I told Cheryl that I thought I might be too excited to fall asleep, and then instantly began snoring. Attractive.
The metro ride to the Capitol the next morning was an event all to itself. Every car was packed to the gills with women (and men) carrying signs, wearing pink hats, and already breaking into spontaneous chants. As we approached the RFK Stadium stop, hundreds of buses jammed the lots, and thousands of women headed to the metro looked up at all of us squeezed into the cars and roared in approval. The driver blared the horn in response, and everyone inside waved and yelled back. All fatigue evaporated.
At the Federal Center stop, where we all got off, it looked like this:
The protest/march was already underway beneath the city. It may have taken 45 minutes just to file out of the metro and up the two escalators, but it was a blast. And once we got out on the streets, an amazing thing was happening: the people just kept coming. A constant wave of thousands and thousands, filling up block after block, and eventually filling the march route solid so that the march would eventually have to be “called off.” (Which only meant that everyone marched everywhere in groups of thousands. I mean, how do you cancel something that is already happening?)
Cheryl and I slowly made our way through people to somewhere. I have absolutely no idea where we were or where we were headed. We just moved long like inside of a tidal wave. A friendly, energizing, cheering, like-minded, tidal wave. Every 10 minutes or so, we would hear a roar rise up somewhere far away and move closer and closer until we were swept up in it, shouting whatever chant had been passed along. Chants ranged from “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!” to “Hands Too Small! Can’t Build a Wall!” to “My Body, My Choice!” with the men echoing “Her Body, Her Choice!” to “He’s Orange! He’s Gross! He Lost the Popular Vote!” (a personal fave) to, simply, “SAD! SAD! SAD!”
Somehow, we ended up near one of the loudspeakers that carried the voices of the speakers who were on the stage about half a mile away. Through some bare trees we could see one of the many screens. Sort of. We could sometimes get a glimpse of a flailing hand or an ear or someone standing behind the speaker chewing gum. But it was all good. Michael Moore was urging everyone to, basically, get off their asses and DO SOMETHING when Ashley Judd grabbed the microphone and repeated a poem written by a 19-year-old woman from Franklin, TN. It was a performance that, apparently, has made some conservatives completely and utterly lose their minds. I mean, HOW DARE a woman mention period blood and vaginas in public? Never mind that every single damn day, women have to sit through untold numbers of super-dramatic commercials about men’s ineffective schlongs. Preach it, Ashley! I loved it. However, just a day after the march, big sis Wynonna referred to the performance as “toxic,” and added that she “doesn’t do politics.” Except for when she, you know, does do politics by referring to a feminist poetic performance as toxic. Sigh.
We also got to hear a snippet of Gloria Steinem’s speech, Maryum Ali, Tammy Duckworth (awesome), a bunch of people whose intros we missed, and poet Aja Monet recite her poem, “My Mother was a Freedom Fighter.” Her performance was so emotional and raw that everyone was in or on the verge of tears. Standing next to me was a woman about my age with her two grown daughters, one of them transgender. As the woman pulled off her sunglasses to wipe her eyes, her daughters both put their arms around her. I imagine that mother is something of a freedom fighter. You go, Mother.
The crowd began getting restless and chanting March! March! March! when it was 30 minutes past march time (and about the time the event was being “canceled” hahaha). At the very moment Cheryl and I began thinking of shuffling on toward a river of moving people within the tidal wave, the crowd around us suddenly parted, and a string of speakers passed through right next to us, including Ashley Judd who was waving, smiling, and hurling pussy hats out to people at lightning speed. Surreal. In the next moment, Alicia Keys was onstage belting out, This Girls is On FIIIIIRE! OMG. Somehow in the tumultuous roar and movement of it all, we missed Madonna’s comments (another cataclysmic event of horror for “My Poor Ears!!” conservatives). I do regret not getting in on dancing to “Express Yourself” with half a million other people.
And then we were marching. I’d marched in protests before, but this was something new, a feeling I’d never experienced. As one of the speakers had pointed out, this wasn’t a party, a parade, or a concert. We were here, all of us, millions worldwide (SORRY TRUMP) to express our anger, frustration, disgust over our new president’s and his cabinet’s attitudes toward women’s rights, human rights, civil rights, you know–anyone’s rights other than rich, straight, white people’s. There’s no need to reiterate the details of those piggish attitudes. Unless you’ve been enjoying life under a hefty boulder, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Since November 8th, I have felt the same chill fog of disbelief, shame for our country, and helplessness that so many have felt. Often I had that dreaded sense of isolation.
But here we all were. EVERYWHERE. A continuous roar of disdain, power, and unity rose up from drums, voices, chanting, shouting, cheering, singing, laughter, air horns, cowbells, and a million footfalls. Here we all were. As I looked around, I felt something I’ve never really felt before. It was beyond pride and patriotism. It was the true sense of We the People. It was surely a sensation 400 years old. It felt that deep and that true.
I have nary an idea of where we actually marched, but I’m pretty certain it was in the exact opposite direction of the planned route. A little diversion for, oh, 20,000 of us. Even the cops were happy. One was wearing a pussy hat. A delivery truck driver gave up and honked his horn in rhythm with the drums, waving out his window with a broad grin. A National Guardsman stood on his Humvee clapping. To be fair, I realize that hardly anyone in D.C. voted for Trump, but still.
Just today, I read an article about how expressing the same contempt toward Trump that he expresses toward women, minorities, the disabled, or anyone who criticizes him won’t, ultimately, be effective in any way. I know that’s true. Still, it felt good to carry a sign that mocked his hairdo on one side:
And presented a pissed off pussy on the flipside:
As a fun side item, just to the left in the above picture was a massive (yuuuge, really) line of port-a-potties. The brand name, brazenly displayed on every door, was “Don’s Johns.” Don’s Johns!! I’m dying!! Stuck to at least 100 of these doors was a stickie with “Trump Hotel” or “Trump Tower” written on it. In the Don’s John (STILL LAUGHING) that I used, the toilet paper dispenser had a stickie with “Trump’s Tax Returns” written on it. But, no, Mr. BBC Man. I’m not sensing any real disrespect.
That evening, we went out for dinner and bevs with roughly one zillion other protesters and then sat up watching CNN (fake) and MSNBC (SAD!) way too late. Everyone was a little loopy on the long bus ride back to Nashville the next day, but it seemed to go by quickly. Midway through, someone put on “Norma Rae,” which, of course, everyone had seen before, but still seemed like a good choice. When it was over, the bus was dead quiet. Suddenly, a loud voice in the back shouted, “Norma Rae was SUCH A NAAASTY WOMAN!” It was the voice of one of the bus organizers who is also the vice chair for the Davidson County Democratic Party. She proceeded to take the mic at the front of the bus and tell us what happens next.
Because now shit just got real. As more than one speaker at the march pointed out, this march needs to be a movement, not a moment. If it was just a moment, just a march, it will amount to less than a blip. It, in turn, will then be mockable. So, I hope for anyone reading this who gives even the very smallest of fucks, you will do something. Make phone calls, attend meetings, support like-minded candidates, resolve to do 10 Actions for the First 100 Days. And for the love of Pete’s sake, at the very least, vote in the midterm elections! If you can’t even get off your ass and vote, you seriously need to STFU any second now.
Personally, I’m gratified to see so many friends intending to do something. I hope the intentions become actions, habits, voices. As Maryum Ali pointed out in her speech at the march, borrowing from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Now the real work begins, friends. Be heard!!