I felt the crush of tens of thousands of marchers yesterday in Washington, D.C., and momentarily flashed back to my first political rally. It was 1968, I was 12, and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy spoke to an enthusiastic audience of a couple thousand Portlanders in a high school gym.
Back to this present-day crush of an estimated half-million people from throughout the country, I felt a bit like Dorothy when she said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.” Unlike that 1968 Portland crowd, these marchers came from throughout the country to share diverse viewpoints often imprinted, etched, silkscreened and painted on posters, buttons, hats, T-shirts, flags and banners. I even saw one emblazoned cape.
Though we strained to hear an occasional phrase or line from people speaking at a far-off stage, the messages that reaffirmed my decision to endure a red-eye flight across the country came from those signs proudly held high.
Just days after last fall’s election, I started making plans to attend the march, scrapping my hopeful pre-Nov. 8 plan to take my daughter Marissa to the inauguration. I wanted us to be part of something bigger, something historic, something positive. I also sought affirmation that my vision for America — the vision that fueled my support for Hillary Clinton — was not an out-of-touch vision of a "liberal elite."
The signs did that. Some were bold and brassy. Others oozed sarcasm and irony. Some blasted the new president, while others mocked his fascination with twitter and his mile-wide ego. More often than not, however, carefully chosen words pleaded passionately for justice and equality, offered promises of love and hope, warned of frightening consequences of this new administration, or challenged marchers to take action beyond this march.
"Women's rights are human rights."
"Only love can drive out hate."
"Nasty women will not be silenced."
"You can't delete my voice."
“Keep your tiny hands off public lands.”
"What are you going to do tomorrow?"
As I inched along with the crowd toward the Washington Monument, one simple, hand-lettered sign seemed to state the common theme of this gathering:
”This is what democracy looks like.”
Yes, it is. And what it sounds like. And what it feels like. And why those of us who marched in D.C. and all over the country Saturday will not “just get over it.” We can’t. There is too much work to do.