A deputy Observer and friends recently made the trek to D.C. for the Women's March on Washington, the hugely attended event that bigly showed up the sparse turnout for the inauguration of Dorito Mussolini, his best stab at alternative facts be damned. Sad! Here is a little of what our friend Observed while helping kick open the door on a new age of patriotism and protest.
Keeping with our 2017 resolution here at the Observatory to Always Be Observing, and considering how the worm has turned as of late, it was decided that attending the women's march in Little Rock would not be enough. We needed to go to the source to have our voices heard and our bodies seen along with a near half-million others in Washington, D.C. Having a junior high-era friend from back home in Benton County offer to put us up — despite his Republican leanings — sealed the deal.
As two of our party of three were D.C. virgins, we wanted to be prepared. Multiple bandanas were packed after the internet told us to have them at the ready in case of tear gas attack. We also had lots of snacks. Other than the act of driving a Prius through rural middle Tennessee, we were incognito as to our ultimate intentions at our nation's capital. So we decided to remedy that with some automotive shoe polish sloganeering. But after a couple of fruitless stops, we concluded that 21st century radicals don't use shoe polish anymore to tell it like it is.
Then, we noticed a van in the parking lot, its windows chock-full of messages in chalk — and just the kind of messages we'd hoped to put on our windows. Turns out it was a van full of nasty women also headed to the march who were more than pleased to lend us their chalk. A couple pumping gas nearby saw what was going on, and joined in the conversation. Turns out they were headed to the march, too. Then, another woman who wasn't marching came over to thank us for doing so. Other cars honked their horns in support and gave the thumbs-up.
Soon, more than a dozen were gathered in solidarity. Photos were taken. It was its own mini-march right there off the interstate in Lexington, Va. Warm feelings and camaraderie in that most American, and often most dangerous, of places: the anonymous convenience store parking lot.
When we got to D.C., the march itself was such a mass of humanity that it was easy to lose one's sense of perspective. With most all other landmarks hidden by the sea of people, the Washington Monument was our North Star. But most everyone was unfailingly polite. There were lots of "excuse me" and "I'm sorry" words heard, with very few police or security seen. We thought we saw a couple of security types once, but couldn't be sure. Either way, they were too busy scrolling through their phones to do any nightstick-bashing.
Every once in a while, there would be an exhilarating cheer that would begin eerily in the distance and roll through the crowd, and we'd whoop it up, too. Even while sitting on the front steps of the National Archives sharing a can of smoked oysters, we paused our snacking for a big shared 'WHOOOO!' when it came around.
We didn't realize until well after it was all over that those cheers were for the likes of speakers Angela Davis or Gloria Steinem, not merely because the march and its participants were awesome, as we thought. Jumbotrons? A stage? Celebrities? We saw none and needed none. That must have been where all the security was.
Something we didn't know we needed until we saw it at the march? A merry-go-round, offering rides for $3.50 a pop. Although it was ostensibly to amuse the many children on hand for the event, lots of adults took their turns as well, still holding their protest signs as the carousel marched them around in circles, surrounded by the frozen painted smiles of undulating fiberglass horses, with tinkling lullabies providing the demented soundtrack. Just another surreal scene in a surreal day, protesting a surreal situation in a surreal time.
From the Chief: Hang in there, deputy Observer. Something tells Yours Truly it's only gonna get more surreal from here.