It’s taken me a couple of days to figure out exactly how to describe my experience of the Women’s March on Washington which took place on Saturday. There have been so many really fine posts on the topic, and I think we can all agree that it was uplifting and exciting and peaceful and inspiring. I should mention that going wasn’t my idea. Not that I didn’t support the March, it was just that I am a poor traveler and very crowd phobic, so the idea of physically being there was, in a word, scary. My husband, David, was the force behind the decision to go. “We have to.” He is the father of two daughters, adult women, to be sure, and themselves the mothers of the next generation. Okay, I said, with my fingers crossed that he’d change his mind and we would instead go only as far as Boston and hook up with our oldest. Besides, I didn’t have a pussyhat. Well, we found a hotel, we made a plan to take the MARC train from Baltimore, and my friend and fellow writer, Judith Campbell, made me a hat. We were on the 7 am boat and on the road by 8:15. By dinnertime we’d arrived in Wilmington, DE. Along the way we bumped into fellow Vineyarders at a New Jersey rest stop and otherwise noted that the pussyhat was trending everywhere we stopped. I felt like a sorority sister. This wasn’t so bad.
Saturday was the second crack of dawn (actually way before dawn) morning and we headed into Baltimore, a city I’ve never seen, to fumble our way to Penn Station smug in the idea that we would be first in line. Wrong. We weren’t even 2,000th in line. Lines snaked four columns deep for tickets, and for Dunkin’ Donuts. Eventually the lines wrapped around the entire block of the railroad station, in both directions. We stood outside for three hours, moving in slow increments. The crowd would have filled Gillette Stadium and then some. No one complained. No one left the line. Everyone chatted and laughed and let the wait become part of the experience. Reading the placards that the very clever and witty among us carried was part of the entertainment. Entrepreneurs peddled posters. We even had a cheerleader in a middle-aged African-American man who kept circling the block and telling us we shouldn’t get discouraged, we were heroes. Eventually, miraculously, we were boarded and on our way to the main event.
Over the past couple of days the pictures showing the massive crowd have been posted everywhere, but I don’t think that the carnival atmosphere is obvious. Humans of every description, persuasion and style had come together in solidarity to let this government know that we are more WITH one another than AGAINST one another. Divisiveness is human, but hope heals. We can keep having the differences pointed out and the rifts made larger by rhetoric; but we don’t have to let it.
I was asked why I was there. For a moment, I was tongue tied. There were so many reasons, it was impossible to condense my reasons into a cogent sentence. I’m a writer, I think on paper. I said: “For the future of this country.” What I meant was, for women’s rights; for race relations, for the rights and safety of immigrants. If there is one word that I wished I’d used, it would be civility. We must return to civil discourse, and protect everyone’s civil rights. Most of all, we must not backslide into a time of civil war because we are told that we are on opposite sides of a divide. That’s what I meant.
At the end of the day, wearing my pussyhat with pride, we found ourselves on a Baltimore city bus heading back to our car. An elderly woman was seated beside me. She took note of my hat and smiled and asked me which march had I attended, the one in Baltimore, or the one in Washington. Washington I said and she nodded. “Good for you. It’s important.”
It was. And I am so glad that I didn’t chicken out. I have nothing to regret by having been there. To say that being at the Women’s March on Washington was a life-affirming experience sounds a bit dramatic, but, you know what? It was.