I went to the Women’s March in Hartford on January 21 2017 because my dad’s Alzheimers increasingly slips into psychosis and he had been hospitalized for that day in Middletown, CT. I wanted to see him, but also take part in the national orgy of anger, frustration, and new beginnings. So, rather than a Big March, I found myself in a place where I haven’t lived since 1982, and it was great!
I went up with my daughter and a few of her friends; we found easy parking, and walked over to the State Capitol Building. It’s a classic dome building, and we met on the stairs, with statues of Puritan New England staring censoriously down on us. There was lots of music, singing, eye contact and story exchanges with strangers… pussy hats… signs… a feeling of solidarity, and of having survived a collective trauma. The crowd was about 10,000 — way more people than the sound system reached. For the first speeches, we squeezed to the front, and heard from the organizers, the governor, local activists. Beth Bye thanked her wife for knitting her pussy hat, thanked Hillary Clinton, and then listed local actions needing immediate attention.
And that was an ongoing emphasis. I had forgotten how self-aggrandizing Connecticuters are. Numerous speakers listed ways that Connecticut did things first and did them better, arguing that the country would be in better shape if it just surrendered to Connecticut’s lead. However, other speakers listed new bills introduced in Connecticut’s state house that would severely limit abortion access, health care, education, and civil rights if passed.
And then there was gun reform. One speaker, looking out at the huge and glorious crowd, remarked that the only event to draw a similar sized crowd had been the school shooting in Newtown. That day had not only gotten people out in front of the state house, but had also inspired the kind of concerted, persistent effort that compels change. A sobering comparison. Tragedy and trauma there forced, at least in Connecticut, the sort of activism that really matters. But even that didn’t go national, and now it probably won’t. So we draw inspiration from that process, as well as a warning.
Like everyone else, I left the rally inspired and hopeful. And then I stopped in at the hospital. I had to explain to my father, again (and again, and again) who Donald Trump is, and where I had been. Caring for a person with dementia isn’t all that different from political activism. That sign that says: I can’t believe I’m still out here protesting this same shit? The national memory is no better than my dad’s. Sandy Hook is so close, both temporally and geographically, yet what did even it fail to accomplish? Is Donald Trump finally the trauma that will shake up our nation? Or will we just cyclically keep protesting this same old shit, too?