What to Chant at the Demonstration

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The women and occasional men who are going to the march in Washington on Saturday will be a diverse group. In the old days when you went to a march everyone was agreed about why they were marching. Chanting was easy. Hey hey, ho ho, (whatever you hate) has got to go. This Saturday we will be marching for many different reasons, because everything is a mess and we hate it all. That makes it hard to pick a good chant.

Pete Seeger, rest his soul, will not be there to lead us in song. Will there be drummers? I hope so. Marching goes better with rhythm. Will there be stilt walkers dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, young women dressed as the Statue of Liberty? That would be nice, too. But mostly there will be two or three hundred thousand women, marching for a mile and a half because they’re fed up.

The organizers of the event have warned us that people from the alt-right plan to infiltrate the march and try to provoke us into doing stupid stuff, breaking windows, maybe, or sticking our tongues out at cops. Some say, be careful what you chant. Bad guys will try to get us to chant offensive or illegal things and then put pictures of it up on YouTube to show how degenerate the Left is. I can’t think who they mean to show this to. Those who think the Left is degenerate are going to think that anyway, and the rest of us know better. Hey hey, ho ho, Breitbart News has got to go.

We could all sing the Star-Spangled Banner, but the tune is hard to sing, requiring enormous vocal range, and as a march tune it isn’t stirring. When some of us hear it we think of Francis Scott Key in the middle of the Patapsco River watching Fort McHenry under rocket attack, and we want to weep. Others think of sporting events. It doesn’t inspire us to march, not without a marching band. The Marseillaise works better as an inspirational marching song, good rhythm, plenty of blood and guts, but we aren’t French, so that’s no good.

Some say we should remain silent, like the protesting Turks. It’s hard to keep your energy up for a mile and a half in silence. I don’t see that happening.

The most satisfying noise I personally have ever made at a march, and I think they’re still doing it, was just to holler. Someone would  start by calling “aaah” at top volume and others would answer in thirds or fifths, until a great roaring harmonic tone echoed from the office buildings, shaking us from our toes to the roots of our hair, louder and louder until windows flew open all up and down the street and office workers leaned out to join the call. We are here. We are of one mind, if only until the song ends.

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Going Back to Washington, Fifty Years Later

Washington.

I used to live there, or near there, in the years before the Metro was built. In my mind it was my town, although I had no feel for politics, or indeed any sense at all, being young. But one could get on a bus in those days and roam all over the city, taking in the passing scenery, observing the people on the street. The view was exciting. You can’t see anything worth looking at out of the window of a subway train.

keybridge1The family home at that time was in Arlington, a house my parents rented from some army colonel who had been posted to Panama for a year. (Every year we rented a different colonel’s house.) I would get on the bus and ride to work in the city, passing the most amazing and seductive things. A used car lot full of strange European cars: a pale gray Opel, a huge black Mercedes sedan whose thick passenger-side windows were pocked with bullet holes, a tiny blue-green Morris Minor that I coveted. If I ever got hold of some money and learned to drive, that Morris would be mine. Or the Mercedes. You had to admit it had cachet.

Just over the Key Bridge was a grain factory belonging to the Washington Milling Company. They had posted a sign just outside the factory: “The objectionable odors you may notice in this area do not originate in our plant.” Where, then, did the smell come from? I never knew. In fact I don’t remember it smelling all that bad, but I can’t forget the sign.

One morning I saw, standing on a corner, a tall man in a floor-length black cape, a broad-brimmed black hat, and a long red scarf. I was thrilled and intrigued. You must remember that this was the early sixties. People didn’t dress funny. Come to find out he was only the doorman at a night club, not the actual Shadow. What the nightclub was doing open at eight-thirty in the morning is another of the secret mysteries of D.C.

My job in those days was as a library clerk at the Washington Post. Politics were talked in the library by people much more knowledgeable than me. A friend made me read the Post’s  copy of the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, in the hope that it would raise my consciousness. It sort of did. After a year at the Post I was fired for conspicuous lethargy.

Time went on and I married a newspaper man, my college sweetheart, to our subsequent chagrin and distress. When we left Washington we were still in love, I think. John Kennedy was president. The highest ambition of a number of people I knew was to be invited to dinner at the White House. I still didn’t understand politics.

The nature of politics is slowly becoming clear to me. The only reason I seem to have anymore for going back to Washington is to scream at the government, which one is better off doing in a large group of like-minded people. If you do it by yourself you attract unwelcome attention.

It’s not the same city. It’s full of cops and bollards now because of terrorism. Everyone rides the Metro. If you want to dine at Trump’s White House, I don’t want to know you.

We will go to D. C. next Saturday and scream at the government, if only to vent our frustration. I will breathe the air of a place where I was once young and silly. Maybe I’ll cry a little.

Meanwhile I’m going back and reading the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens again.

What to Wear to the Demonstration: Revolutionary Headgear

The day after the inauguration, American women are going to Washington to make their voices heard. Exactly what we’re going to try to communicate I’m not sure, except to say that we are watching and listening, and we aren’t about to put up with nazis, fascists, racists, thieves, Russian agents, and enemies of women running around the White House for the next four years. Any time the new authorities get out of line they can expect us to hit the streets. We’re here, we’re sore, and we’re not going away.

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Being women, however, we are aware that what we wear to this shindig matters. A movement is afoot to knit pink hats with cat ears, on the theory that a sea of women wearing pink hats with cat ears will demonstrate seriousness of purpose, the solidarity of sisterhood. There are knitting patterns for these hats—pussy hats, they call them—online. Not to be outdone by the other sisters I knitted myself one.

Plenty of precedents exist for revolutionary hats. Who can forget the broad black brimmer of the IRA? Or the black beret of the Irish provos. To say nothing of Che Guevara. We think of the French resistance fighters as wearing black berets. The Black Panthers wore them. They were dignified and a little scary. If a million women showed up on the Mall wearing black berets all Washington would tremble before us.

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A prime example of the revolutionary hat was  the liberty cap, adorned with a tricolor cockade, worn during the French revolution. In such a hat you were one of the people, a citizen, and if you were lucky it helped you keep your head on your shoulders. What do you think Madame Defarge was knitting as she sat in front of the guillotine? (Hint: it was not a pussy hat.)

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If the D. C. cops show up in riot gear, unlikely in the face of a parade of grannies like me, but not unheard of, you may want to be wearing a bicycle helmet, according to an interesting site I came across from some anarchists across the pond. The anarchists are in favor of hats with brims or peaks that can be pulled down over one’s eyes when the government comes to take pictures, to foil their face-recognition software and keep you off their enemies list. Similarly, a scarf may be wrapped around the lower face. Scarves are also good for tear gas. I had my picture taken by government agents at a peace march during the Bush administration. It made me mad, if you want to know. Now I’m sufficiently radicalized to enjoy marching down the streets of Washington and screaming at the government. Bastards.

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But not in a pussy hat. I finished the pink hat today and tried it on. It was not threatening. It was ridiculous looking. The ears aren’t even cat ears. They are the ears of a pig. It is, in fact, a piggy hat.

 

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So I’m going to wear a black beret. See you in Washington. Right on, and all that stuff.