Last Thursday, my colleague and I worked furiously through the morning to finalize some items, and then we gathered up our small overnight cases, headed to a big box store parking lot, and boarded a charter bus with 54 other people – women and men, all races, all ages, although most of them were college students and most of them were black. 18 hours later, we arrived at a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was about 10 in the morning when we arrived, but luckily we were able to check in early and take long showers. We ate delicious sandwiches made on real, boiled bagels for lunch, and spent the afternoon touring Monticello. When the young and handsome (in a UVA bro way) tour guide asked us what we thought of when thinking of Jefferson (a BRILLIANT tour guide tactic, I now see – lets him know how to set the tone for the whole tour), one of the white students chirped “systemic racism!” This phased him not a whit – he smiled, nodded, and said – “Absolutely. None of this would be here without slavery. For all Jefferson’s accomplishments, he owned people, he fathered children with a woman he owned who couldn’t say no. His children by her were slaves. He was able to build this plantation because he didn’t pay the people who did the work here. That’s something we will keep in mind throughout our tour today.” And then he did just that. The tour was extremely informative, interesting, fair, and sensitive. It paid homage to Jefferson’s brilliance, the breadth of his myriad skills, the contributions he made to the Republic – and also gave juicy details of his quirks (of course a brilliant guy like that has odd tendencies, including spending wayyyyy more than he earned, putting the whole place in pretty bad debt), and was open and bracing about his slaves and about enslavement at the time. Really, I can’t say enough good things about it. The house itself was much smaller than I expected – I’ve seen pictures of Monticello my whole life. It was beautiful, but also not large. I suppose I’ve been to too many European castles – I’m spoilt.
That evening, we headed home and met several of the students at a Chinese place for a really fun dinner. A couple of them are pre-law, so I gave them some advice about pursuing a law degree. They were all great kids, funny, kind – all students of an HBCU in town here. It’s a small college, and I was surprised how many of them came from really far-flung states to attend – Minneapolis, Chicago, California.
After dinner, we went back to the room. My colleague is a news junkie – she watches CNN, BBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, even Fox. I stick to NPR and the BBC, mostly, but she watches it all, and knows all the anchors and shows. She’s actually a former conservative who now identifies as independent. And she’s a black female lawyer, so she, like me, finds this administration’s goals antithetical and a threat to her continued existence. Just ask her about the frou frou over the slaves who built the White House, and how “nice” their lives were. I dare you.
Anyway, all this to say I was ready to go to bed at 8pm that night, after our long bus ride and the next morning’s early wakeup call (4:00 am!), but she put on the networks and we watched the coverage of the inaugural balls for a while, as well as the commentary about the inauguration itself. We went to sleep at 11 ish, and the alarms woke us up five hours later. We were on the bus at 4:30 am, ready to go.
Several hours and a few wrong turns later, the bus parked in a kind of creepy, dirt lot by Nationals Park, and we filed out. I did not wear a pink pussy hat, but many of the group did. I didn’t carry a poster, either – I didn’t want to have to hold it for 12 hours. We walked to the metro and boarded our train with ease, but when we got off at L’Enfant Plaza, it was an absolute crush. I got a little nervous, thinking of the Hillsborough football disaster (I used to date a British guy whose birthday was April 15, and this disaster really captivated and horrified him, which is why I even know about this). It was extremely slow going to get out via the turnstiles, but full trains kept stopping and letting more folks off, so slowly but surely we were being packed in tighter and tighter. I had no reason to fear – D.C. is used to huge crushes of people marching, and they had it together. They simply paused travel to the station for a while, parking trains on the tracks, until the pressure eased off.
In any case, it was a crowd. Whole families with small children were there, people young and old, wheelchairs and strollers and everything in between. There were thousands upon thousands of men, too – many men carrying daughters. One of our bus compatriots brought her 12 year old daughter, and told me that after the Access Hollywood footage leaked, she’d already had to explain to her the slang use of the word “pussy” and how Trump was using the term.
We got split up from them very quickly, however. There was no way our group of 55 was staying anywhere near together, so I clung to my colleague and she to me, and we ended up losing everyone else over the course of the day. Once released from the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, we made our way through absolute throngs of people – well over half a million of us were there, and it certainly felt like it. My colleague and I ended up very near the stage – to the side of it. We were right by a jumbotron and speakers, and so we were able to see and hear everything. The rally went on way too long, but even so, it had some pretty amazing speakers. Sophie Cruz, a 6 year old immigration activist, gave her speech in English and then Spanish. The crowds chanted her name – So-PHIE, So-PHIE, So-PHIE. The Mothers of the Movement did a piece with Janelle Monae, where she asked them to shout their dead children’s names into the microphone as we shouted back. It was so raw – I can’t describe how it felt to listen to it. Alicia Keys was a surprise guest, as was Madonna. Ashley Judd read a poem by a 19 year old, one line of which struck me as so true – something like “I walk around studying my shoes, lest you mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact.” In my life, it was a long time before I realized how much effort I made to avoid the male gaze, since so unfathomably many times a mistaken shared glance led to a man following, grabbing, hounding me, convinced my looking up was meant as some sort of invitation. I stare ’em down now, older and more dominant.
So we stood, packed like sardines, unable to sit, pee, or eat or drink, listening to Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis and Linda Sarsour and various women, many carrying their babies onstage with them, for about seven hours. And then we started to march, which was essentially just a giant sea of people walking a few miles at a snail’s pace, to eventually stand like sardines once again, packed in before the White House with our signs, while President drove by in his motorcade. All of his sexual sins come back to haunt him.
It was wonderful. It was a moment of clear-eyed resolve, solidarity. Though since then, hateful and discriminatory executive orders rain down that are throwing my business clients into a tailspin, as none of it makes much legal sense and all of it is vague and leaves them not knowing what the hell is legal anymore (most of these try to implement things that the President does not have constitutional authority to do, for example, and some do flow from executive authority but are completely unclear – it’s almost as if the President has no idea how complicated governing is?) There is a multi-billion dollar wall that we are totally fine with Americans paying for, even though it is not practical (we don’t own the land it would be built on, and the estimates don’t even include cost for purchasing all of that land and the legal fees to structure those deals), it is ineffective, and has now caused Mexicans to boycott U.S. businesses. However, investing in universal healthcare, which would help the middle class consumer, is “too expensive.” So investment in government services that have real impact on improving the lives of taxpayers is ridiculous, but investment in government follies that have zero impact on anything is totally fine!
Worst of all, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, a hastily signed Executive Order banned travel from all Muslim-dominant countries [that don’t have Trump hotels in them], meaning that Syrian children whose families have spent upwards of 2 years jumping through hoops, the most extreme of extreme vetting processes, in order to travel here and start a life were literally sent back on their planes, on the day they were to finally begin a new hope. Literally nobody qualified thinks this is a good idea or will reduce terrorism, but it’s red meat to throw to the supporters, who get more brutal by the minute.
So I guess you could say my fizzy joy has fizzled somewhat. But not my resolve. Make America Kind Again. We shall overcome.
**Meal Planning Portion**
This is what I plan to make this week. We are also grilling out on Sunday afternoon for mah babeee’s third birthday – just a few friends, some burgers and beers and a birthday cake. Happy birthday, Craig!
Easy One Pot Quinoa Corn Chowder – I bought the industrial sized quinoa from Costco, and this soup looks super delicious (or “souper” delicious – rimshot!)
Chicken broccoli and mushroom stir fry – I’ve made this before and it’s good stuff
Fried pork chops, potatoes, and peas – except we’ll probably have mixed veg since that’s what I have
Chicken and sausage jambalaya – not a NOLA recipe
Lemon butter chicken and baked potatoes – I bought a giant bag of potatoes at Costco so we gotta eat ’em up