On January 21st, 2017 I exercised (in more ways than one) my 1st amendment, to the Constitution of the United States of America, right to peaceably assemble as well as the right to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This was the first time in my life that I had participated in any kind of event like this. I received quite a bit of positive and negative feedback for my choice to exercise that right. When I say negative feedback, I really mean insults, ridicule, name calling, told to leave the country etc… I took the negative in, mostly without responding. It was both online and in person. I’m going to talk a little bit about the negative but if you know me well, you know I try to mostly focus on the positive and will definitely let that lift me up, but that ain’t always easy…
I was part of history and I know that history will show it was the right side when I participated in the Womxn’s March on Seattle even if you think it is on the left…in this instance left is right and right is wrong.
The day started – up before dawn, a couple cups of coffee, not too much because who knows what the latrine situation will be like today. Check the news and weather. It’s supposed to be in the 40’s with an 80% chance of rain, a typical Seattle winter day. Prep Suk’s meals for the day and just after dawn go out and spend some time with him doing our morning routine .
Back inside to shower and get dressed to go. If you recall this day is “the day after” the inauguration. Connect my phone to the Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom and turn on some music, my Pandora thumbprint station starts playing Van Morrison, singing along while I shower when suddenly the lights go out and the fan stops…. Uh oh.. my old military mentality takes over.. oh crap it’s an EMP.. I have a vivid imagination, couple that with the dread I feel about the new US administration and it’s not far off to think we’re already under attack… but then I realize the music is still playing.. ok whew not an EMP just a power outage (the speaker and my phone are battery operated) …I wrap up the three esses and step out of the bathroom and the lights are on in the bedroom.. I get a good chuckle at myself when I realize the power is just fine, the timer on the light/fan just expired and turned off automatically. Ok we’re off to an interesting start to this day, I get a good chuckle at my own expense.
I get dressed in long johns and jeans, a tee-shirt and sweatshirt, pack up a few items like battery packs for my cell phone, a couple granola bars and a bottle of water, a bandana in case I need to wipe away any water leaking from my eyes or snot from the weather.. yeah that’s the ticket… grab by heavy Carhart ,coat kiss my beautiful wife and pat the dogs goodbye, no idea when I will be back, get in the truck and hit the road.
I pull into the train station in Tukwila at 8:15AM, park, gather my things and head to the train. There are long lines for tickets, lots of people in coats, scarves and hats carrying signs and Starbucks. I pay my 6$ for a day pass for the lite rail and head up the stairs to the tracks. About 5 minutes later the train arrives, we all board the already full train (there’s only one stop before us) and it’s standing room only. I squeeze in a spot and look around me, it’s a sea of pink.
The train speeds down the track towards the city, twenty minutes later we are at our stop – Mt. Baker station. We spill out of the train cars and head north toward Judkin’s park about a mile and a half away. I learned a long time ago not to pass up a bathroom opportunity so I duck out of the crowd and into a store along the way. Back outside there is still a steady stream of people on both sides of the street heading to the starting point of the march. I arrive at the park at 10:00 AM, it is awash in pink and rainbow, men, women and children by the thousands fill the park and surrounding area. Signs saying everything from my uterus is not your political playground, Women just want to have FUNdamental rights, Veterans for peace, You belong, etc… etc… thousands of different signs and messages. No really, thousands, tens of thousands actually. I have seen some large crowds before at sporting events, like Daytona or the Indy 500, but nothing like this. Nothing in my history compares to this collection of people. People so diverse, every color; creed; gender; sexual orientation; citizenship, all there to peaceably assemble and voice their desires for change by the administration that was inaugurated one day prior.
Why did I feel like an outsider here? Most likely it was because of my gender, my skin color, my status as a veteran, my white privilege. I feel like I look like a DJT supporter which is horribly embarrassing (yes, I am stereotyping myself) It felt odd, like I was an interloper, a spy in the ranks of the liberal movement. But I wasn’t and I certainly didn’t feel that way for long. Once people around me saw me nodding, smiling and clapping and crying at the speeches I could sense them relaxing and welcoming me into the crowd. One kind eldery lady offered me her box of kleenex, I showed her my bandana with an awkward teary smile and thanked her. Yes I have voted republican more than I have other parties in my life, but I have always been a middle of the road voter, a centrist. I’ve voted for independents, democrats even a green party candidate or two for various positions. When someone was in office that I didn’t vote for, I was OK with it. The system worked and there was usually some balance. Not perfect, but a working system.
The system is now broken, there is no balance. There are clear signs of fascism and desires for full on dictatorship. It’s not even a blurring of the lines, it is blatant hate spewing forth from the White House and it’s spilling out into the streets, I see mosques on fire, I see immigrants and refugees threatened and blocked from returning to their established homes. I see the Christian religion being promoted as the National religion. And I see so much more…. Hate masked as nationalism, hate masked as religion, hate masked as self-preservation, hate masked as caring, hate hate hate. And I see too many people jumping up and down cheering at the hate. Thinking it’s love, thinking it’s patriotic. Blind and deaf people shouting how they won, how they are making America great again and how everyone else needs to get over it, move on, give him a chance…. It seriously breaks my heart. My country is already great, it never became less than great… we need more love, more caring and kindness, and a whole lot less hate and fear.
Back to my day marching. I worked my way through the crowd towards where the organizers were putting on their speeches and making announcements. I listened to speeches, songs and prayers. The speeches were good, peaceful and respectful. The speakers were:
- Lindsay Zae Summers – performing “Rise” by Maya Angelou
- Colleen Echohawk – Executive Director of the Chief Sealth Club
- Rebecca Saldana – Washington State Senator
- Christine Charbonneau – CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands
- Aneelah Afzali – Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Project
At about noon I finally made it onto the streets from the park for the march, as I set foot onto the pavement two bald eagles flew overhead and the crowd roared in awe and a deep sense of patriotism, true love of country washed over me as I saw those eagles in the sky. This is what patriotism feels like. I have always been patriotic, anyone who knows me knows that. I stand in my own living room for the national anthem and ask others to respect the moments in silence. I fly the flag, I served my country in the armed forces, I served in war and in peace. I held an elected public office. I served my community as both an elected official and as a public servant. But this is the most patriotic thing I have ever done. I have exercised many of my rights, but never this one, I never before felt the pull to fight for my country as I did on this day, and every day since. I am a patriot of the United States of America and I am fighting for our country. It just so happens that on this day I fought with my feet. I stood arm in arm, heart to heart with my sisters and brothers, American patriots in peaceable assembly to speak out against evil and to stand up and speak up against the wrong being committed in our country’s name.
Eagles and a cheer erupts as we start the march
The march was nearly 4 miles long. The marching started, for me, at noon and it took until 3:30 PM to get to Seattle Center for the end rally. I stuck to my plan, to honor the wishes of the organizers and I was silent once I started marching. I took in everything I could, reading signs, listening to the speakers along the route, crying at some of the things I saw and felt, smiling at others. Looking at the spectators, most of them were encouraging and supportive. There were a few groups protesting and condemning the marchers, but everything was peaceful. Once we passed the final speaker, there were chants and yells and I cheered and chanted and cried along with the crowd. It felt good. I was sore already but it was the good kind of sore that you have after a hard days work. No it wasn’t particularly hard work, it was walking but it was hard mentally and emotionally. To see so many people, the reports said anywhere from 130,000 to 170,000 people participated in the march in Seattle. Knowing that similar sized and larger ones were taking place across the nation and even around the world. If that doesn’t speak to you and say that something is horribly wrong with our government, I don’t know how to get through to you. I truly worry about you if you cannot see what is happening. You know what, if you’re one of those people – I’ll pray for you, no really I will, trust me it’ll be a yuge prayer..
A brief break from the silent march to counter protesters of our peaceful march.
The rally was still going on but I’d accomplished what I came to do, I felt that I sent my message for this day. My first act of defiance against hatred, bigotry and so much more. My first, but not my last. I walked the mile and half to the train station alone again in a crowd.
Boarded the train and actually had a seat, the first break, off my feet in about 7 hours. As most of my readers (both of you) know, I had to retire from the fire department due to a heart condition. As I sat down on the train I noticed extremities were swollen, hands , feet, ankles.. ugg swollen and throbbing. I hadn’t even realized that I was not feeling well. The energy from the day had kept me going and distracted me from my body. I also have a bad back and a pain in the ass condition called colitis ( I’ve never mentioned that publicly because ew….) if anyone suffers from that they know what a chore 7 hours on your feet and no bathroom in sight can be….I am supposed to be on medication for it, but it is $900 a month on our new insurance plan so we can’t afford it until we meet our $6500 deductible(my mistake at open enrollment) So needless to say I am wiped out, hurting and in need of medications. I was completely overdressed for the day… it turned out to be sunny and in the 50s! The train pulls into my stop in about an half an hour and I exit and hobble to my truck. I fall into it and text my wife that I made it and am on the way home.
I drive the hour home, during the drive things have stiffened up, though I can only image what some of the other people that were marching today feel.My issues are nothing, I saw people of all ages, there were all kinds of people with various physical (and I am sure mental, like me) disabilities. There were people with scooters for one leg, wheelchairs, crutches or birth defects that didn’t allow easy walking. I felt for them, what I “endured” was nothing compared to what they did to stand up for this cause.
I know how strongly I felt I needed to do this march, and it was for those with disabilities, , immigrants, LGBQTIA, women, minorities etc… But I also marched for the environment, for education, for wildlife and wild lands, for our national parks, for science and nature. All of those people, animals and things are under direct attack from our government! If you don’t believe that you’re are completely blind or willfully ignorant. If you cannot see what terrible things are being done to those people and things why are you reading this? So you can attack me, like so many others and call me names? Make fun of me, try to ridicule me for standing up for something I believe in? don’t waste your breath or either of our time. Unless you are willing to listen, to change the state of our government back to a place of balance please leave me in peace.
I never gave 45 (that’s what I will call the evil thing in the oval office) a chance, nor should I have, nor should anyone have…. I am thrilled that I marched on the 21st. Just over a week later, everything that I marched FOR has been proven true, sad but true. I wish that I had been wrong, I really did. I was hoping that maybe I was overreacting, many people told me that I was, that I needed to give it some time, let the system work itself out. I’m not happy that I was right, I am not proud that I saw this coming. I’m heartbroken watching my country implode, watching friends and family tear each other apart over things that really should be complete no brainers: human kindness, respect, dignity, equality.
But I was right, or wait am I left? Nope, I’m still centered but maybe leaning a little to the left as I mature.
Since the march, I have written several letters to my representatives in congress, I have signed a plethora of petitions, I have made calls and left messages with voicemail systems for legislators. I am not sitting on my hands and letting the momentum of the march wane. I am continuing and will keep on taking actions that I believe to be right to fight against the tyranny I see coming that will lead us into world war and oppression on a massive scale. I am a patriot.
I am glad to see today (1/28/17) that the ACLU was able to get a stay on the unconstitutional ban on Muslims and other immigrants. If I weren’t laid up with an injured back again I would be at Sea-Tac airport right now protesting this ridiculous, cowardly, sick and illegal act!
So for those of you out there feeling alone, scared, marginalized – I want to say to you that you aren’t alone. You have millions – seriously, millions of people fighting for you, fighting with you. We won’t give up, or give in until we have our country back! I am NOT saying when a democrat gets in office – we just have to get 45 OUT ASAP and then I could give his VP a chance, though I do NOT agree with his attempts to tear down the wall between church and state, I do think that he would be slightly more tolerable than 45. If we can get them both removed from office , I’m fine with that too… at this point the devil we don’t know would be a hell of a lot better then what’s there now destroying our country. We need to all reach out to our representatives on all sides to get them to stand with us, to fight back against 45!
Now I know I said I’d be positive, and I will now. I have seen a lot of activism lately, people are really starting to understand what being a democracy is and many more are standing up and being patriotic. That is fantastic! It stinks that this had to happen for that to happen, but hey it’s what we have so let’s use it! So let’s keep the momentum up, for love of country, for your fellow humans, animals, wildlife and environment. Make a difference, do it peacefully, do it often and share it with others to show them (show us) that we’re not alone.
I marched. It felt good. It felt right. It made a difference. I wasn’t alone. It was my first. It won’t be my last.
Throughout the march and beyond I still try to live up to my mottoes:
Stay Safe, Be Kind, Keep the Park Clean, Pay it forward, Make a Difference and One Love – http://wp.me/p2RcFA-3Z