Women’s March Montpelier

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Like thousands of other people across the country and across the globe, I attended a march today.  I have never seen more people in Vermont’s capital than I did today. The Burlington Free Press estimated 15,000 people attended the rally. Some estimates were as high as 20,000.

We left early to get there in time to find parking and to get to Montpelier High School, where the march was scheduled to start. Still a good way from the interstate exit we were in the slow lane to turn off. Traffic was backed up before noon. The march was scheduled to start at 1:00. Good thing we left early.

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We later learned that the Montpelier exits on Interstate 89, both northbound and southbound exit 8, were closed. Then exits 7 and 9 were closed in both directions. There were a lot of people trying to express themselves in the capital city today.

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And express themselves they did. There were many signs, some clever, some hardhitting, all honest. I have put a few of them here.

We walked from the high school to the capital lawn. There were poets, politicians, speakers and musicians on hand to offer some guidance and inspiration. It was difficult to hear it all but that didn’t matter to me. Most people didn’t seem to mind. The atmosphere was a mix of celebration and pissed-offedness and determination to not stand for all the negativity of our new president. People are not happy about this change and they wanted to do something, to at least show up and demonstrate how much they do not support discrimination and oppression and fear.

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The message, on signs and in conversation and from speakers, was about supporting women, for sure; but it was also about fairness and equality for all in general. There were plenty of people who are just angry about our nation electing such a hateful man to represent us all and to lead us. “Not my president” was a common theme.

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Pussy hats and other pink hats, and just pink in general, was prolific. I wore a pink hat myself, borrowed from my spouse. My daughter, plus her friend and her mother, were in my party. There were plenty of my friends and colleagues and neighbors there, although I saw few of them. There were just so many damn people.

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I was inspired today. I felt more hopeful. It was a hell of a better day than yesterday. I am baffled that every day can bring more head-slapping, eye-rolling, are-you-f-ing-kidding-me news. It wasn’t just that I was around so many similar-minded people, although that was helpful. I was proud to be a Vermonter. I was proud to be around people who believe that kindness matters. I was proud of my country.

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Let me clear here. I am not upset with anyone who believes that government has a different role than I believe. I am not against anyone because of their political party affiliation. I can disagree with others on how things might be changed, or our national priorities, or how to make things better, or even what the problems are to begin with. But I cannot support this president. He is a nasty man. He is a liar. He is dangerous. I am frightened for our nation. I am not upset because “I lost” and I am not going to “get over it.”

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I know that many other people stand with me now. Change is hard. Apparently we have some work ahead of us. I am not sure what I will be able to do, but I guess I will need to be doing something. For now I am just angry and confused. In terms of what I am feeling, this guy with the green sign nailed it:

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Read more details about the Women’s March in Montpelier here.

Staying Up Late to Watch History

I had a busy day today and I knew I would have to get up early, but I love election night.  I always feel excited about watching what is happing across the nation.  OK, I understand I am not really watching what is happening right then, just the prediction of the summary of what happened throughout the day, but still, it is exciting and I like to watch it unfold.

Any election is somewhat historic.  It marks a transition of power that unlike so many in the world, is peaceful and (for the most part) fair.  Aside from attempts to keep people from registering to vote, most adults can register and then vote.  That in itself is pretty amazing.  This election was certainly the most historic in my lifetime.  Barack Obama came from a modest background to be elected president of the most wealthy and powerful nation in earth.  Not bad.

I watched Fox News throughout the night because that is the only channel we get that does not have a double image or simply fuzz.  We do not have cable or a satellite dish (why pay at least $30 per month to get a few channels we want and 40 we don’t?) so we make do with what we can receive.  We get our news from The New Yorker, Mother Jones, The New York Times and lots of online sources.  Television news usually doesn’t make the cut in terms of quality or quantity.

But last night I wanted to watch, to see things unfold with sound and pictures.  I was glad I did.  I was skeptical of the Fox News coverage, which seemed to be focused on being the first to report who won each state.  At every milestone they would call a winner for several states.  At 10:00 they were calling the winner in states where polls had just closed.  Literally no results were officially in and they were predicting a winner for the presidential race.  It was hard to believe.  Remember Florida?

At 11:00, right when polls closed on the west coast, and with two states’ polling places still open, they announced Barack Obama the winner.  I was at first, again, skeptical but soon understood that I no longer had to wonder if this man would pull it off.  He did.  And come January, we will have our first president to break through the color barrier.   That is one for the history books.  I had considered going to bed once I heard a result, but I realized I needed to be a witness, in the moment, to history.

That is plenty to celebrate, but Obama’s speech made me cry.  He was humble and honest and inspiring, not because he turned out the usual political jargon, but because he understood that this moment is only partly about him.  It is about this nation and what we have the potential to become.  It is about moving forward in a new and positive way.  He showed in that speech that he understands that we need to make sacrifices and that we all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  We can’t sit back and wait for him to do it.  We need to be the change agents ourselves.  I was moved that he said that this is really just the opportunity, the chance to change things.  His election is not change.  We need to make that happen.

He inherits some damaged goods.  I can’t imagine doing the amount of work he will need to do to begin the process of healing the wounds of divisiveness we have faced internally and to create a new image of the United States in the world.  i was dumbfounded when George W. Bush was elected the first time.  i couldn’t even believe he had become the nominee.  I was doubly baffled when he was elected to a second term.  We got what we chose, and I hope enough of us can see that now.  We have work to do and I believe our new president can see much of what needs to be done.  Whether we can really get it done, well, that is up to you and me.

Voting Day

I have been looking forward to voting and, like thousands of other Vermonters, and millions of other United States citizens, I did so today. I made sure to have the car with four wheel drive so I could take the back way to the polls. Like everywhere else, high turnout was expected here in Hinseburg, and I wanted to avoid a line of traffic on Route 116. So I went the bumpy way.

I brought my daughter with me. She got off the bus and then we waited about an hour before we left. She needed a snack and a break before we headed out. I was excited to vote and was itching to get out there but I was patient. My morning was too busy to get to the town hall to vote so I had planned on doing so in the afternoon. That meant my daughter could come along.

There was plenty of parking in the lot below the town hall and the place was not busy. As we walked in, I overheard one of the poll workers tell a voter that she “must be special,” joking, because she got to go to the Chittenden 1-2 district table to get her ballot. I went in an noted that I must be special as well. Here was the irony: a small fraction of voters are in my district but I had to wait behind one person while no one was getting a ballot from the five poll workers for Chittenden 1-1.

It was not a long wait. My daughter and I found a booth (open, no curtain here, but private enough) and I marked my ballot. I was proud to be able to vote across parties for local races. i voted for Barack Obama (as I write the New York Times reports that so far 66% of Vermonters voted for Obama–not bad for the whitest state in the union) and it felt great to finally be able to fill in that oval. I also voted for my former state representative, Gaye Symington, for governor, although she has had little chance of winning.

My daughter fed the ballot into the electronic scanner and we each took an “I Voted” sticker. We got a couple of donut holes (she made sure to take one for her brother, who we were headed to pick up after leaving the town hall–I love her for that kind of thing), thanked the poll workers, and headed back out. The whole process took all of ten minutes. There was a line of traffic heading into town as we left town but we skirted that problem.

My daughter asked me later who the first president was as well as who “the last” president was. She asked me more about his last president. What could I say? I just told her that some people are good at their jobs and some people are not and that he was not all that good at his. We talked about that for a few minutes, with me struggling to explain national politics to a child whose first experience was a mock election at school today. I am sure we will have more such conversations.

It looks like a good bet that my children will remember Barack Obama as the first president of their lives. That is historical and powerful. It is amazing. And I am happy to be part of it.