Diary of a Trip to Washington DC: The March for Civility
Before the Trip
“So do you think you are going to change the Nazis’ minds by going to the peace rally?” someone asks me? No, that is not why I am going by Greyhound to the March for Civility in Washington DC. I don’t expect to change the mind of any Nazi or any White Supremacist. But I do expect to be one of the many who come together to dwarf them – dwarf their numbers, dwarf their message, dwarf their power. I want to be part of that. I want to see it, feel it, be it. I don’t want to follow it on the net, look at it through a phone, or text people somewhere else while I am there.
I am now on the bus between Louisville and Cincinnati. I have my see-through security compliant backpack, a bag of sandwiches, chips and cookies, and my bed pillow. My poster is in the bottom of the bus, wrapped in a garbage bag. So far, I have witnessed two disruptive altercations, one at the Nashville bus station and one in the bus in the seat in front of me. I have also grabbed the foot of the man in the seat behind me while looking for my flashlight on the floor.
At 4:50 am, having arrived at the DC station, I am shaken awake by the bus driver. I look up and see that the bus is empty. Embarrassed, I get off in a hurry and grab my poster, left by the curb. I have plenty of time to get to the March for Civility site so I arrive early. I find that the rally is very small. I am disappointed. It will not make CNN. But the message delivered there is powerful, and not at all the message I had been carrying with me in my mind. There is a long line of speakers, led by Ken Nwadike of the Free Hugs Project, and each person touches on the same point. Ganging up on the “other side” is not what we should be doing. We need to communicate with the other side. We need to counter the prevailing trend in our society to associate only with those “like us.”
Ken advises us to seek out someone who disagrees with us and talk to that person. We are asked to cultivate “unlikely friendships.” Most importantly, we are to treat everyone kindly so that we can disagree within the context of human relationships, because when groups stop speaking, that is when violence erupts. I fear that all this will be a lot harder than ganging up.
After the speeches we start marching with signs and flags of all the states, and chanting “Love not hate,” and singing “Imagine” by the Beatles. Except I am not singing because I am crying.
My plan was to toss my sign in the trash can at the end of the march. The poster is big and awkward and I won’t be needing it anymore. But I can’t do it. I lug the sign three miles back to the bus.