An ex-pat American, this friend is politically liberal, but the Trump election tried the best of them, it did. Many a liberal, especially (though not exclusively) of the white, straight, able-bodied male persuasion was challenged to understand the mindset of the very people they professed to support, stretched to come to terms with what it really means to be an ally.
I know our friendship was not the only one tried at this time. The media was full of stories of lost or shaky friendships as a result of this particular election.
Eventually we had dinner. And a conversation. And as our straight, white, able-bodied friend noted that while he supported LGBTQ rights, he would probably not wear the "Teaching with Pride" rainbow t-shirt I had given him last summer out and about (because he just "didn't want to bother answering people's questions"), he began to see that those of us who can't leave our proverbial t-shirts at home (because it's who we are in our sex, gender, skin colour, sexuality, physical ability, etc.) are sick to our stomachs with fear and disgust over the apparent mainstreaming of racism, homophobia and generalized bigotry that this election has shone a spotlight on.
Our friend started to see how those of us who were suddenly and forcefully being re-oppressed might feel a little impatient with those alleged allies who still didn't "get it".
What to do?
Our friend wondered what he should do to demonstrate his sincere support, and offered to make a donation to the Women's March, to help support those who needed to pay for travel expenses and lodging while there.
His thinking reminded me of a song by 1980's Christian pop icon Keith Green, who himself was fed up with people always sending money instead of acting themselves, and who insisted that Jesus Commands us to Go!
The Women's March is for Everyone
At first, our friend didn't understand that he could and should go to the march in Washington. Surely a straight white guy like him didn't belong there, he insisted. But in time, we convinced him that his presence would be very much welcomed and needed.
Yes, he was only one person, but so was every other individual person who was going to ultimately make up the more than half a million people that formed the Washington crowd (plus millions at sister marches and rallies all over the world)!
Yes he was a man, but women and children needed to see men who were not misogynistic pigs supporting them, and their mothers, and their sisters. Ditto for the "but I'm not black/gay/disabled" arguments.
Besides, we told him, it would be a great chance to him to reconnect with a long lost cousin and meet an internet friend from the Chess server who lived in the area.
And so, with a little more convincing (and considerable paper chasing -- it turned out his American passport had long expired, and his current Canadian passport was of little value in crossing the border), the old man finally bought an overpriced, last minute airline ticket and got going to his Motherland.
Those of us who stayed behind rallied together and got the man a pink pussy hat to take with him on his adventures. It's the least we could do.
First, a Little Sightseeing
Eager to get first-hand accounts of the happenings, we sent along strict instructions for our friend to update us with regular texts and photos.
He did not disappoint.
Arriving the day before the inauguration, he wandered about Washington, taking photos and sending his observations like a good little tourist...
First came an excited text and photo of the recently completed National Museum of African American History and Culture, behind which there was apparently "some tall pointy thing" to be seen.
Then this photo and caption:
Tall, pointy thing with flags.
Following this came a series of three photos...
This is the first of a series of three, which should be looked at one at a time. I was not able to get close to the Lincoln Memorial, which was the one sightseeing thing I'd most wanted to see – they have it fenced off for some reason. But something good came of it anyway – trying to get to it brought me close to this thing. This is the way it looks when you enter through an entrance formed of two similar blocks of stone.
Then I walked a little bit further on and saw what you will see in the next picture.
Walk a little further around and you see this – an image of Martin Luther King Jr. carved out of the rock. He is a supposed to be holding a copy of the Declaration of Independence in his left hand. Apparently there is a bylaw in Washington that no statue can be taller than the 16 foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln, but this is technically not a statue since it was carved out of a big piece of rock and only partially. This monument has only been there since 2011.
Arranged in a semicircle behind it are roughly 20 quotations of this hero, made in various places over a period of years. Next photo shows two of them.
We are at a subway station several miles outside of Washington DC, on our way in, and already there are many pussy hats on people. :-)
Soon after this, the text texts stopped, save for a quick observation that "thousands of people are wearing pussy hats". Indeed, both the photos that followed, and an Internet search on the Women's March revealed an encouraging sea of pink.
These marches were only the beginning of the revolution.
I'm glad you were there, Rick!