Funny things happen to Washington DC when you drop half a million people or more on it. We basically took over most of downtown, streets were shut down, the National Mall was packed solid, and the Metro was so far beyond capacity that station managers gave up trying to get everyone to pay and just focussed on getting them through. If your card didn’t beep after a couple tries, well, whatever, go on through.
And yet there were no arrests – at the inauguration, which I wouldn’t have gone to for any amount of money, there were 217 arrests. Assaults, rioting, protesters crossing the line. Drop three times as many folks at least in the same space only a day later, and you’d expect bedlam – but there was not a single arrest.
There was instead an air of relentless positivity and radical peacefulness – even the signs displayed this. For every sign that boiled down to ‘oh SCREW THIS GUY’ there were a dozen more that were messages of positivity and support. “Never forget you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of opportunity.” “Love is love.” “No human is illegal.” “Women deserve equal rights.” “Black lives matter.” “Refugees welcome.”
It’s resistance, but joyful resistance. It’s the happiness of returning to fulfilling work – a vocation, a Calling, instead of just a job – after a too-long sleep. America is waking up.
Excited people swapping tales of the people they were marching for and interspersing them with sightings of the faces of the previous and greatly missed administration. A woman with a Hillary pin tells a man with a Shrek sign (Get out of my swamp!) about seeing John Kerry walking his dog. A man holding a sign announcing that Trump’s approval rating (32%) is less than the Rotten Tomatoes score for Paul Blart: Mall Cop (33%) talking to someone with a pussy hat about his mother with an aw-shucks smile. People telling each other about their friends and loved ones who couldn’t make it to DC but they’re at a sister march in Boston, or in Seattle, or in Paris.
Reassuring themselves and each other that none of us are alone, that this is a fight we will keep fighting, that if their feet get tired there’s a million more pairs marching in lockstep.
Given the tremendous amount of people dropped on the Capitol, and the crap that went down at the inauguration, the DC police and various federal agencies freaked out a little – I spotted a division of mounted officers (horses!) and several sniper nests atop tall buildings which became more frequent the closer we got to the White House. But every DC cop and uniformed Secret Service agent and National Guard member seemed surprised and relieved at the radical positivity – I lost count of the number of times I marched past and saw an officer chatting with someone who’d stopped to take a rest or ask for directions. Every time, without fail, they were smiling – not the uniform, move-along-citizen sanitised smile of official positivity, but a genuine happiness at seeing democracy taken to the streets without the chaos. Unrest without unruliness.
And that’s how we’re going to win this one, and every other fight we’ve got coming in the next however long. Hate is strong, and scary, and has long sharp teeth. But love is stronger, fearless, and has hide too thick for any fang to pierce. They’re going to try to bring us down and get us mired in negativity and goad us into violence so they can point and shriek and call us all criminals – because that’s the only way they can win. They can never defeat us if we don’t follow their script.
Write your own story. Don’t let them hand you one. Be excellent to each other, I love you all.
Also published on Medium.