I Didn’t Want to March on Washington, but I Went Anyway

I Didn’t Want to March on Washington, but I Went Anyway January 29, 2017

My daughter and I marched on Washington, DC in the Women’s Unity March on January 21, 2017 with half a million of this nation’s finest human beings. For 24 glorious hours, the world felt right again. Starting on a bus leaving Greenville, North Carolina, we were accepted like two drops of water into a river of sanity that was temperate and clear, deep and strong.

Greenville protestors outside of out Bus upon arrival at Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. January 21, 2017. ~ Photo Credit Elizabeth Cayton Photography, used with Permission
Eastern NC Marchers upon arrival at Pentagon City in Arlington, VA. January 21, 2017. ~ Photo Credit: Elizabeth Cayton Photography, used with permission

Like all the other buses, trains, and planes that converged from all over this nation, we flowed through the tributaries of roadways and metro lines, until we merged into an ocean of reasonable, compassionate people who were there for a multitude of reasons. With a tidal wave of purpose, we flowed into L’Enfant Station and rose into the sunny streets at Independence Avenue SW and 3rd, just as the voice of Gloria Steinem could be heard over the cheers of the crowd. The feeling was buoyant and surreal.

Bargaining: High Cost versus Questionable Benefits

They say it was historic, that this is the Civil Rights March of our generation.  We were in the heart of the largest nationwide–nay, WORLDwide–protest in our history among 3.5 million worldwide. I learned a lot, met interesting people, and gained some insight into the personal power achieved through unified struggle.  It is the worst of cliches, but truly my “faith in humanity”  was temporarily restored.

The march was a bucket-list level experience and I’m glad I went, but I fervently hope that this service will never again be required of me. MLK, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, even Bernie Sanders, and all the rest of these amazing leaders that we laud for their repeatedly marching into harms way, are even bigger heroes to me now. It was a hard day with many real challenges, both physical and spiritual, from which it has taken me this whole week to recover.

I also learned that when joining the swarm of locusts that descend in greater numbers than any city can possibly accommodate, wear adult diapers, and bring way more food with you than just protein bars. Some may have been there in uterine solidarity, but what truly united us were the universal needs of stomach and bladder. I shit you not…no really, shitting was off the agenda…not without a 2 hour wait for one of the vastly under-supplied toilets. But I digress…

Every one of these people is in line for the same food court restroom that was many blocks away from the March location. Our hero was a plain-clothes officer with a badge that played toilet traffic cop and helped the women use the stalls in the men's room and kept the peace. photo by Heron
Every one of these people is wrapped around in a peaceful line for the same food court restroom that was many blocks away from the March location. Our hero was an officer that stepped in as a toilet traffic cop and helped us all share the stalls in the men’s room. Everyone was really patient and helpful. Photo by Heron

Isolation: I don’t want to talk about it

If I was a successful blogger, I would have posted about this a week ago. Yet, I’ve just not been ready to talk about it to the outer world, especially once it was clear what a divisive social media shit-storm of #alternativefacts and cat-fighting it would become.

What happened at the March on DC can only be grokked by those who were there. If you, like several of the North Carolina politicians on twitter, watched the news and all you noted was the fashion-fail of pink hats, or said that we were “fat” or called us “crazies…if brains were lard you couldn’t grease a small skillet,” then the irony of self-fulfilling ignorance from which you are suffering is so meta, so terminal, there isn’t anything I can say to help you.

Keep Abortion Legal protest sign carried by a young girl on her father's shoulders
“Keep Abortion Legal” held by a young girl on her father’s shoulders ~ Washington DC ~ Photo by Heron

Depression: Post-March Love Syndrome

What can I even say about last Saturday, that has not already been beautifully articulated? Here is my favorite inspirational article about it, by Caroline Myss.  Yet, I am a writer, this is my confessional, and frankly, there are things I need to work through. I’m forcing myself to stand in my truth and be honest about it.

I am not okay; this is not normal.

Maybe after the shock of expanding so intensely into an awesome sea of logical civility among the most colorful of my human family, that what I am now suffering is a post-march depression. While integrating what I’ve experienced, I find it difficult to live in this Trump Era under these new “marching orders.”

They say that a soldier can never fully return from war. I feel like a Divine Love Warrior who went to battle against an evil oppressor, and despite our vastly out-numbering them, and all our righteous indignation, and the constitution on our side, it didn’t make a lick of practical difference in these first 7 days. A narcissist looking out the white-house window only sees himself.

PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, is a real thing. Could this malaise and despondency I’m feeling since my return be some kind of “Post-March Love Syndrome? PMLS? Each new executive order feels like salt poured into the wound of my broken-heart.

"This is not normal" Protest Sign in Washington DC, Photo by Heron
“This is not normal” Protest Sign in Washington DC, Photo by Heron

Denial: I didn’t Want to Go

The day after the election, I went into shock. (I wrote about that, here.) Since then I have been processing through the stages of grief: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  While I was hiding in a twilight zone of “denial”, others went straight to anger and it activated them into action. The invitations to join this march poured in from all my best feminist friends; I was proud of them.

But, mobilizing into a protest march are things that people in history books do, not me…I make art, or write a poem, or organize a fundraiser.  Remember my rainbow protest against the HB2 bathroom bill? That’s more my style. While I was still in denial that the inauguration would actually happen, I can’t tell you how many times I removed myself from their planning groups, or declined a facebook event.

I couldn’t fight this fight–I’ve never felt so vulnerable. To borrow a phrase from A Few Good Men: I know a truth about what is coming, and I couldn’t handle it.

I made excuses that I was too broke to travel. I didn’t want to give up the custody time with my kids. I can’t afford any lost income. I panic in large crowds, having a past-life phobia of being crushed during a battle. I am intimidated by that many emotions running that fiercely all at once. The anxiety I felt over the prospect of this march was so intense I just shut down.

You say, Why so anxious, Heron? You may be over-reacting a smidgen for a privileged white girl. Isn’t this just a “peaceful protest” that is a guaranteed right of the American system?


Marchers on DC outside the National Museums--Photo by Heron
Marchers on DC outside the National Museums–Photo by Heron

Anger:  Or, the Mission, as I heard it

Let’s crochet pink pussy hats to wear for a stroll through the capitol, the day after the take-over of the new authoritarian, fuck-the-constitution, Christofascist regime, whose diabolical agenda is to roll back time a few hundred years, and order by insidious executive order, lock me and the people I serve back into their antiquated/racist/misogynistic/hetero/conservative boxes…

We’ll wait until just after the malignant narcissist with sociopathic tendancies and his “alt-right” cronies are given the keys to the white house and the majority power in all three branches of government. We’ll give him just enough time to unlock the back door so that his despicable posse of billionaire despots can just let themselves in… and then we’ll go for a visit.

Because dear POTUS will just love that. You remember his self-styled golden majesty, El CheetoThe Donald of reality TV fame? The “You’re Fired!” guy? …that guy with no tolerance for dissent or confrontation who offered to pay the legal fees of anyone who “knocked the crap” out of his election rally protestors? Whose inauguration protesters were pepper-sprayed, over 200 arrested and charged with felonies? The guy who was accused of raping a 13 year old girl, hiring prostitutes to piss the presidential suite bed and 4000+/- other suits involving him and his associates for everything from fraud to sexual assault?

Sign reads: How many women does it take to crush a cheeto?
Photo by Elizabeth Cayton Photography, Used with permission

This guy was almost certainly elected thanks to significant interference by Russia–who are most definitely not a friend of the USA, but are clearly in a bromance of business entanglement with Trump–and yet despite all of this being widely known BEFORE the inauguration, it made absolutely no difference to STOP it from happening, because we are now living in a dystopian reality where nothing makes any sense anymore, unless you are George Orwell.

The day after that guy is given command of the US military, the nuclear launch codes, and a helluva lot of shiny weaponry, on that day, lets go confront him on his new front lawn. Oh, and we’ll take our kids with us.

Much like poking a dragon, lets go remind the most powerful human being on earth of how little we like him by waving a bunch of insulting signs in his face, and hope to all that is holy that he notices. THAT day, let’s assemble a veritable army of every type of person his administration hates and have vowed to repress or deport, along with our infants in slings, toddlers in strollers, disabled in their wheelchairs and the elderly with their walkers, and let’s attempt to peacefully march through the streets of the capitol, into this new era of unknown dangers, and see if we can change his mind.

What could possibly go wrong?

Civil disobedience against Donald Trump’s regime is scary for real reasons.

This action was absolutely justified and necessary, but it required more courage than I thought I had. My desire to just go hide under my covers was a projection of my own fears. As long as no one questioned me about it, I could pretend they weren’t there.

Heron and Willow at the Women's Unity March on Washington, DC ~ January 21, 2017 ~ sitting at the base of the Washington Monument
Heron and Willow at the Women’s Unity March on Washington, DC ~ January 21, 2017 ~ sitting at the base of the Washington Monument

Acceptance: I’d fight Dragons for my Children

I almost got away with my cowardice, but then, on the Eve of Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, one of the local coordinators approached me in a restaurant…there are seats on the bus now available because someone can’t go at the last minute.

My 14 year old daughter hears this and begs to go. She is brave and strong and has had to sit powerlessly on the sidelines while the safety of her future as a non-christian, female, aspiring-scientist was voted away by others–including her own bigoted extended family. She wanted to make a difference, to do something important to help–not just herself, but her gay, pagan and immigrant friends.

It is for my children that I’d tackle any dragon. Their whole lives I’ve protected them by keeping us out of harms way, but those idealistic days are now over. The only way to protect their rights for the long-haul is to teach them the responsibility of purposefully entering the fray. My precious baby girl is now a young woman, and she insisted that we march together into what could potentially become a war zone.

Ok, sweetheart…we’ll see.

Aphrodite? Hermes? Is this your idea of a sacred mission?

We can’t afford the bus fare: Your seats have been sponsored.

What about the custody arrangements? Daddy says I can go.

What about my lost income? My sister, Heather Anne, sends me money saying “you march for me, too, and here are some emergency funds, just in case.”

It’s too late to get a Metro pass in the mail. Here, have my metro cards that already have credit on them.

Every single excuse I tried to throw in our way just disintegrated.

Protest sign reads respect existence or expect resistance
Photo by Heron at the March on Washington DC

Preparing for the Women’s March

For five days I researched everything from protest laws, to how to recover from pepper spray, to the phone numbers for legal defense. I made us signs, crocheted hats, and made emergency plans A, B, and C. I barely slept, I could hardly breathe, my jaw stayed clenched and I teetered on the edge of panic attack, but with the support of my feminist boyfriend, and the techniques of my witching praxis, managed to keep it together so that I could “be present to win” and become “the strong link” for my daughter.

At 3:30 am Saturday morning we set off for DC with 155 other brave women, men and children who were all colors, ages, sexual preferences, gender expressions. We have diverse religions, professions, education levels and national origins. Whatever reasons motivated us to show up, on that bus, there was not one coward, “snowflake,” hater, ignoramus, or “victim-consciousness” marcher among us. All our signs were correctly spelled, and by gods, they rocked those “pussy” hats!

We did the hard work, even if some folks didn’t understand why it was necessary, even if it didn’t immediately change the politics of the moment.  I think that the spirit of resistance to tyranny has been revitalized and will continue, regardless of the personal cost, because it is the moral and responsible thing to do.

Crystal Grid over a map of the nation in my "Love trumps Hate" Meditation and spell working for compassion, balance and clear communication. Photo by Heron
Crystal Grid over a map of the nation in my “Love trumps Hate” Meditation and spell working for compassion, balance and clear communication. Photo by Heron

MLK Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

In his tradition, I will do everything in my power as a citizen, as a business owner, as a person with white, hetero-privilege, and as a mother, to aid this moral justice. Most importantly, as a witch, whose very job title implies the “wisdom of bending and shaping reality,” you can trust that no matter how risky it becomes, I will keep working through the powers of Divine Love to keep bending that arc, to defend and empower us all.

Won’t you join me?

May The Force be with us,

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