Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guest Blogger! Sue Hanlon's DC Women's March tale

In the first of a who-knows-how-many part series, T-Dawg Speaks is honored to have a Guest Blogger!  No, this isn't about doing outdoor shit, nor is it a rant; it's just a well-written account by a good writer who - somewhat out of character - went to DC to participate in the now-famous Women's March the day after the inauguration of He Who Can't Be Named.  It's a fun and inspiring tale, and thanks very much to Sue Hanlon for taking the initiative to not only make the long drive from New Hampshire to DC but also taking the time to write up a narrative of her experience!  

Women’s March 2017 – 48 hours or bust!

It was early December when I got a text from my sister asking if I wanted to go to the Women’s March on Washington.  I had been contemplating The March but leaning more toward not going.  My reasons were plenty:
-        I am not the “protestor type”
-        The logistics were daunting
-        I hate crowds
-        I want to put my energy toward something more positive
-        I work full time and my life is too busy.
-        And on and on….
I sent my sister a text with my non-committal response.  As I hit SEND, I immediately thought, wow, how lame are my excuses?!  I immediately called her and said, I’m IN!  From that moment on, I was full steam ahead!

As The March got closer, my sister and I started to text back and forth about the details of the trip - where would we stay, what would we put on our sign, how do we get to Downtown D.C., and what snacks will we bring in the car?  About 2 weeks before The March I was having dinner with two of my best girlfriends.  In the midst of our dinner, I blurted out – “I’m going to The March”.  WHAT?  The MARCH, HOW COOL!  

Awwwww Yeaaaahhhhh, this was going to be cool and the buzz in my little circles began.   I could feel the momentum building.  

One week before The March, my sister and I finalized our plans. We had a friend to stay with in D.C.  The weather was looking great.  Our Metro passes were on order.  We bought snack for the car and chatted every day.

From out of nowhere, on Tuesday night before The March I heard the words "PINK PUSSY HAT". What?!  Did someone just say, "PINK PUSSY HAT"? What is a PINK PUSSY HAT and how does it relate to our upcoming event?  After a quick google search, I was in the know….I needed PINK PUSSY HATS asap.  Greg, my husband, to the rescue!  He sews.  We had purple fleece on hand and within a short time TEAM PURPLE PUSSY HAT was ready to GO (as an aside - husband at home sewing pussy hats - right on!).

Friday January 20th rolled around and the 48-hour journey began. I drove to my sister’s house in CT, slept a couple hours and we were on the road at 2:00 AM.  Mission Women's March on Washington was underway!  

In the car at 2AM, tired eyes!

Around 4:30 AM we rolled into our first rest stop for a quick break. There we see a small group of women in pink pussy hats!  We immediately struck up a rather lively conversation (especially lively given the wee hour).  It was the beginning of The March.  We shared our excitement with these super nice gals and headed out. From that point on the momentum built and built and built. It was palpable.  Everywhere we looked, there were women and men and girls and boys (and every other one of the 52 genders now available), all ages, sizes, and shapes headed to The March. The rest stops were jammed.  The busses were full.  The cars were rocking with high energy.  Holy cow!  It was happening.

After driving 10 hours, and drinking lots of Kombucha (thank you to my sister Amy for introducing me to yet another expensive beverage habit!), we arrived in D.C. and met the rest of TEAM PURPLE PUSSY HAT:

Heather - smart, funny, lipstick wearing, mom of two beautiful young girls… charge of logistics and an unbelievably generous host for our overnight stay.
Carrie - adventurous, crazy, fit, fun hog….in charge of finding trees and poles to climb to get the best vantage points throughout the day.
Jim - calm, cool, collected, smiling, kind, token dude… charge of first aid (which would come in handy later in the day).
Amy - peaceful, graceful, beautiful, creative sister….in charge of chants, songs, and group sign.
Me (Sue) - okay, okay, forever the organizer, I was in charge of, yes, you guessed it… overall organization.

Our team – (left to right) Jim, Carrie, Heather, Amy, Sue

Backup support on the home front (THANK YOU ALL):

First stop was to find a Metro that was not closed due to crowds. We drove around a bit but then found a stop pretty far out from downtown. No worries, we parked and ran into the station and, wow, it was packed! The lines to get Metro tickets snaked throughout the terminal. Lots of pink hats, lots of excitement. We got in line and chatted up whoever was near.   An hour or so later, tickets in hand, we crammed into a train that was headed to our final destination - THE WOMEN'S MARCH on WASHINGTON.

Out of the train station, there were hordes of people funneling toward the gathering.  At first we could walk comfortably, full stride, chatting and taking in the sites.  Quickly our strides shortened and we had to keep an eye on one another.  Quickly yet again, we were really tight and decided to form a human chain to work our way into the crowd. Our goal was to get near enough to the speakers to hear, or at the very least, be able to see the BIG screen.   Alas, we were quickly engulfed in a sea of people, jammed together, no room to move, pushed up against whomever we were standing next to.  We looked at each other and said, "I guess we will have to watch this on the news later today because we have no idea what is going on".   It was a sea of people and the speakers/big screen were nowhere in sight. We could hear a roar coming from the direction of the speakers, which made its way back to us time and time again.  We would roar – not hearing what was just said - but knowing it was all a good message.  This was intense and we were so happy to be a part of it.  We took it all in - sights, sounds, signs, smell, and solidarity.

All was well, until I got claustrophobic. Yes, I started to feel like I was about to pass out.  UGH.  I looked my sister in the eye and I said, "Amy, I'm going to pass out".  She said, "Do you want to sit down".  I was thinking yeah, but how would that even be possible.  There was nowhere to stand let alone sit. Then, from god knows where, Dorothy from Winnipeg says, "Do you want a chair"?  I was in disbelief.  A chair? Who brings a chair?  Within a split second, Dorothy whips out a trifold camp chair and sets it down on the ground. I sit, head between my legs, trying to calmly breathe. It was surreal. There I was, in the midst of a half million people and not a bump, not a jostle, not a movement.  That's how this March went down - polite, kind, courteous, generous, and respectful.  To say it was impressive is an understatement!  It was remarkable beyond words.

After about 10 minutes in my seated position I was feeling better and but I had to get out of the density.  Arm-in-arm we snaked our way back out.  It took several minutes before we could move freely.  We laid down on some grass (Carrie climbed trees), got some food and water and re-grouped.  From this vantage point, we could see the actual march had started and we were here to MARCH. And so, we joined in and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.  The map below shows the route.  This was one of the best parts of the day.  We sang, chanted, marched, and celebrated with our Sisters & Brothers.  It was magical.

March route below:

Two of our favorite chants….We are women, Hear us Roar, Numbers too big to ignore!!!  And….We want a Leader, not a Creepy Tweeter!

Some of our favorite signs (our heart sign on the right) -

Some photos from the day (our sign is the heart on the right with the names of the friends we brought in spirit)

Some photos from the day…

Amy with our sign
Lots of pink hats with the Capital as the backdrop
Washington Monument –we were taking it all in!

Late afternoon, we were beat and we knew the trip back out of the city would likely be as lengthy as the trip in. And so, around 4:00 pm we headed back to Heather's house to bask in the glory of the day, shower, eat, sleep and dream of how we could keep the momentum.

Next morning, back in the car, we were headed north. The same spirit that was around us on the way to D.C. was with us on the way home- cheering, chanting, rest stops filled with Marchers, high fives, and tears of hope and happiness! I was on a high of all highs.  

I dropped my sister at her house in CT midafternoon Sunday.  As I pulled out of the driveway I said, "I am going to stop at the last rest stop on my ride home, which is in southern Vermont and, mark my word, there will be Marchers there".  And yes, it happened.  I drove to the rest stop, got out of the car and sure enough, a fellow marcher yelled- NICE HAT!  We high fived, shared our stories and she said, "We have to keep it going!  We have to keep it going"!!  And I said YES, YES, We WILL KEEP IT GOING.  

I got home at 4PM Sunday - exactly 48 hours after I left.  I am forever changed. I will not rest until I have done everything within my power to support the issues that are important to me and to this day.  

Here we are, a couple weeks out.  So far I have done the following ---
  • I printed and put postage on 100 post cards to mail to our political leaders. I'm handing them out every day.
  • I have emailed our governor regarding important bills up for vote.
  • I have sent letters to US senators to block the Jeff Sessions nomination.
  • I have called friends and family to spread the word.

Lastly, before I sign off, I thought this snippet from Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark, was encouraging. She wrote this in response to the election and action of George W. Bush. It is sadly, newly, highly relevant. It reminds us:

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” 

“It is always too soon to go home. And it is always too soon to calculate effect. I once read an anecdote by someone in Women Strike for Peace (WSP), the first great antinuclear movement in the United States, the one that did contribute to a major victory; the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, which brought about the end of above ground testing of nuclear weapons and much of the radioactive fallout that was showing up in mother’s milk and baby teeth.  The woman from WSP told of how foolish and futile she felt standing in the rain one morning protesting the Kennedy White House. Years later she heard Dr. Benjamin Spock-who had become one of the most high-profile activists on the issue- say that the turning point for him was spotting a small group of women standing in the rain, protesting the White House. If they were so passionately committed, he thought, he should give the issue more consideration.”

Anything could happen, and whether you act or not has everything to do with it.”

“Inside the word emergency is emerge; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast but danger and possibility are sisters.”

Applicable to all levels of governance.

Also, check out the NY Times photos here


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