Thursday, January 20, 2005
to Magic Hour."
We left Philadelphia at the a.m. Magic Hour of returning light, and left D.C. at twilight. Since I usually don't see sunrise unless I've been up all night, it was beautiful to see the colors appear and take shape in the sky over West Philly while Matt and I waited for Nicole to get a pair of more comfortable shoes on her feet. It was only about a five-minute wait, but what a glorious, meditative start to the journey.
The three of us shot down the road in what seemed like record time. Nicole had flushed out a map from the computer with the best route, and she also checked out train stations, which would be open, so we could park and take the Metro into the city. Thanks again for that Nicole, it was a brilliant idea, and it all happened without a hitch.
While on the Metro, Nicole put her BUSH CHEATED button on her giant red white and blue Uncle Sam hat. It's a great button, mostly because it looks like a campaign button that says BUSH CHENEY, until the eyes focus. At one point before our train took off, several Navy officers walked down the aisle with a look of disgust at all the protesters on board. Then, while Nicole was standing, looking at the map on the wall, I watch a woman strain to read her button, then, gasp and say while standing, "THIS IS THE CHEATED TRAIN!" She and her male companion exited the car and got onto the car where the Navy guys went, safe and snug. Many amusing episodes like this occurred all day, and it's mostly because this was not a staged protest against the war, or for gay rights, etc., but because we were in a completely mixed crowd much of the time with some very serious and unapologetic fascists.
The endless parade of mink coats made me ill! Of course I FORGOT my PETA anti fur stickers JUST when I needed them the most. But I did get a couple of digs in with remarks about the brutal way minks are killed for their fur. One woman said she LOVES her mink, stroking it, as though sparks were going to fly from her fingertips. I said, "Yeah, well I'd rather wear human skin myself!" Later I realized how creepy that sounded, even though I really meant that I'd rather wear my own skin, but it didn't exactly translate that well, which probably accounts for the sharp look of horror she threw at me.
When we first were approaching the bustle and sounds of the inauguration, that Ashcroft song was being sung�what's it called? The Iron Eagle. Yeah, I think that's it.
We soon realized the bastards who organized the seating along the parade route were up to their old tricks of getting protesters well out of sight, and making it as difficult as possible to get to the section set-aside for us. We literally walked up to 17th Street to have to snake through the barricades back to 4th. But that's just fine, because what it provided was a firsthand view of ALL the empty bleachers set aside for Bush supporters. Endless blocks of emptiness! When we arrived at the protest location there were literally THOUSANDS of people all over the place! It was SO FUCKING BEAUTIFUL TO SEE EVERYONE! All kinds of people, in fact, that was something to notice, how different and varied the protesters were, every imaginable ethnicity and age and dress, etc. While the republicans were pretty much a bunch of fur wearing, ten-gallon hat wearing, same same same same looking same nasty glare looking sameness.
The creative juices were FLOWING with the protest location! Drummers, chants, lots and lots of signs, lots and lots of signs. Signs about class, war, No War But Class War, etc. Some of my favorite signs were:
PEACE IS LIKE
GET BUSH OUT
OF MY BUSH!
NEEDS MORE ICE CREAM!
One of my absolute favorites though was by three young women who had purchased T-shirts from a vendor on the street that were white, with FBI in black letters. They wrote with a black magic marker after the initials:
We ran into the Global Women's Strike crew from Philadelphia, which was great. Standing there talking with Phoebe from their group is when I started to get a little tired of the speeches being shouted from the microphone on the little stage nearby. That's when I decided to try to get up there and read my poem. I made 108 double-sided broadsides for the day. My goal was to give out all 108 copies, and to read PACE-style to as many people as I could get to listen.
This is the part of the story where I split away from Matt and Nicole for awhile. Nicole went to the bathroom at one point, only to discover yet another dirty trick, and that being that the portapotties were all on the Bush supporter side, and once you crossed over, they wouldn't let you back. I hope that Nicole will write me an e-mail about this and other experiences she had to post up here on the blog. Matt, I'm hoping you will also!
But I went over to the stage to try to get up there and read a poem. I mean, the speeches are important I guess, but dammit if they weren't redundant as hell after awhile. Anyway, I spoke to a couple of people, one man being very nice, trying to get permission. But soon enough I was told that poetry wasn't needed. Two different people made that clear. One woman made a face when she told me so, and I said, "Fine, I'll just go read to people one-on-one." She shrugged and said, "Go knock yourself out!"
It was a great experience, and I met a lot of people and connected with them in ways I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. Poetry's an amazing connecting FORCE, and I'm really starting to understand this with PACE-style reading. Part of me wishes I had contacted Tom Orange or Buck Downs and asked if they wanted to do some PACE readings together with the crowds.
To be honest, I could only read my poem about a dozen times before I was sick of reading. But in that time I had some pretty interesting bartering going.
One man gave me a piece of homemade maple sugar candy in exchange for the reading and a broadside of the poem.
A hippie girl (a little stoned) gave me a hug after I read to her, and she smelled of lilac and hash (nice combination).
Ad Buster people (or maybe just people handing out Ad Buster material) traded me a copy of my broadside of the poem/letter to the president for an Ad Buster postcard pre-addressed to the president, with the message:
Dear Mr. President,
would you please find
a way to put the stars
back into the Stars + Stripes?
A loyal citizen,
�The other side of the postcard was Old Glory, only, where there would be white stars there were symbols from major American corporations: Coca Cola, ABC, Camels, Windows, Nike, General Electric, McDonalds, so on and so on, you get the picture.
A group of very generous women traded me a broadside for a HUGE poster from the folks at bartcop.com, which said in huge letters over Bush's face, "WAR BEGINS WITH W."
When Matt and I made the journey out to find Nicole, who had been hoodwinked into leaving the enclosed area, and having an impossible time trying to get back in until she gave up (which is exactly what they of course wanted to have happen), it was then, with that huge sign where I was constantly confronting the Bush people. One man came right at me with his huge ten-gallon hat and black tux, plowed into me, and said, while tipping his hat, "Oh, please excuse me!" I laughed, because it was such a high school kind of idiotic move. Laughter wasn't what he had counted on, but fuck him, seriously, fuck him and his stupid fucking fraternity of greed and violence! What a piece of shit, him and his ridiculous trophy wife with her FUCKING auburn floor-length mink coat! How do we get these fucking bastards to leave the fucking planet before they destroy it!?
Police were everywhere, long double lines of them, like fat black snakes tending to their blocks, marching in unison. Silhouettes of sharp shooters on the rooftops everywhere you looked. Despite the great day of connecting with so many fantastic, vibrant, creative folks there to protest, it was pretty clear of course that this day was a celebration of a different kind. An ominous kind. And when Matt said he wanted to walk over and look at the White House, the darker frame of the picture got even clearer. When we arrived near the White House, as close as we could get, we were far outside of our territory. These Bush fans walking to their gala balls were giving us the finger, with gunmen poised on the White House roof in the background. These people literally had the look that they wished we were dead. They were so disgusted by our presence up there, so far away from our little protest area.
The president's speech blared throughout the streets on huge speakers. He spoke of America protecting innocent people in foreign lands from bullies and I burst out laughing. What the fuck!? Is irony ever this alive!? D.C. was painted the color of madness when he gave his ridiculous speech today. When that fascist's voice was bouncing off the buildings and completely unavoidable, it made me think what it must have been like for Germans at the brink of WWII, hearing Hitler, surrounded by military and a sense of incredible vulnerability.
I know there's all kinds of talk that marches and protests don't do any good. Well I'm here to say that that's just not true! No way! Marches and protests really bring a needed, very much NEEDED connection to like-minded people. As Nicole said on the drive home, "Protests like this one show us we're not alone." She's so right! There's a very lively and POTENT counter-culture in America! And to me, these people are the Real America! And I mean, we encountered folks from just about every city and state you could think to mention. Don't listen to the fucking news reports about numbers of people there to protest, trust me when I say the numbers were much higher. On the radio while driving back we heard one report say 500. 500!? No! That's bullshit! When we first arrived at the protest area and stood on the bench to get a good look, there was a sea of bodies as far as you could see, carrying signs and screaming and chanting and look pretty damn fine!
We can take this country and make room for everyone, it's very VERY possible!
Glad I was there today with my friends for this incredible, historical event!
All my best to you,