Mind Matters — Report from Washington

No, I did not come for the inauguration on January 20, but to see my son and attend the Women’s March on January 21. The organizers anticipated 200,000 people. At least 500,000 showed up. The British publication The Guardian estimated 1,000,000.

What was so remarkable in a crowd so massive was how polite and considerate everyone was with each other. In other words, for the most part, these women in pink pussy hats, these men, these children, modeled the words that were spoken from the stage and sounded out over jumbotrons. The message given was an antidote to what has been the poisonous and dark rhetoric of our 45th president. Over and over, the talk was of inclusion, human rights, women’s equal pay, healthcare, climate change, the acceptance of diversity, religious tolerance. It was about the rights of all: Native Americans civil rights, African American civil rights, LGBT civil rights.

Allow me to give you a few cameos of who came. On the Metro, we met a climate scientist who works in wind energy who is very concerned about how the new administration denies the science regarding climate change. He noted how the field of wind energy can be and is a profitable field that creates jobs. Yet the 45th president has nominated Scott Pruitt, a climate denier, to watch over the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Fox in the hen house material he is!

Another group marching were 500 women scientists, dressed in white lab coats, one of whom I know personally. Their concern? That this administration will demean and minimize the importance of scientific research and will promote deception and denial in lieu of facts and truth.

Other friends who were there are professors, physicians, medical professionals, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

No matter who we are or what our walk of life we come from, all were united in their concern for the abrogation of rights of all for the aggrandizement of a few. So many signs expressed succinctly the issues. One rainbow sign read, “Love is love, Black lives matter, Climate change is real, Immigrants make America great, Women’s rights are human rights.” Another sign held by a not so youthful man reminded us of how great the past was not. “No, I don’t want to go back to the 50’s.” the placard claimed. The fifties, if you are old enough to recall, were the time of Joe McCarthy and his paranoid obsession to rout out the “communists” in our midst, including Hollywood writers, authors, and producers. Do we want the fifties, when the civil rights of African Americans was more nightmare than a dream? Do we want the fifties, when women may have finally had the vote, but were second class citizens nonetheless? Do we want the fifties when most of us were ignorant about the environment, nature, and the specter of climate change? Do we want the fifties where industrial pollution smudged the skies over many cities—Pittsburgh, for example? Or where waterways and river pollution was not given a thought? The only good thing I can recall about the fifties is that the wealthy were more likely to pay fair taxes upon their abundance. Now the wealthiest pay 35%. In the 1950’s, the top marginal tax rates were 90%. CEO’s were not making 300-400 times their least paid employees either. Such income inequality bullied its way in over time.

Our museums—the national treasures on the DC mall—are reminders of where we’ve been and where we can go. The day after the march, we attempted to get tickets for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, but they sell out immediately every day. So we opted to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Both museums trace the history of discrimination and oppression experienced by African Americans and Native Americans. Yet they also celebrate the resilience, creativity and richness that different cultures contribute to the U.S.

One sign among many at the march, pointed to the unity in our diversity, proclaiming “The U.S. is US—All of us.” Another, “Unity, peace, equality.” Another sign pointed to “Intersectionality.” This word refers to the “interconnected nature of race, class, and gender.” In other words, we must honor the interconnectedness of not only each other but the issues that even more profoundly affect marginalized segments of our society.

The 45th president and his administration need to be made aware that change back and regressive policies will never carry us forward into being an even greater nation than we already are! Mother Nature can’t be denied her due and human rights for all will eventually trump the hubris of titans.