Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Power of Pink

by Kit Kimberly

The day at the Pink House begins, as always, in a flurry of activity. Liz, Medea, Desiree, Ena, and visitors Anne and Barbara head off to congress for hearings; Eileen is here adjusting the wireless and connecting the downstairs computers to an Ethernet (because the pipes block their access to the wireless internet).

I am blogging frantically from the night before, and trying to catch up with media and training tasks that I agreed to do, when Liz bounces back into the house and says, “C’mon, we’re off to justice.” We catch a cab—Mustapha, the driver, is a Pink friend and he and Liz have a detailed discussion about the Iraqi oil laws—to 9th and Constitution, where we will maintain a lunchtime vigil today and until Gonzales either resigns or is fired. There’s a concrete platform on the corner, and David Barrow—dressed in an orange jumpsuit with a black hood over his head—kneels in handcuffs while Desiree and I stand behind him with a pink banner: “Women Against Torture.” Passers-by stopped at red lights often ask what it symbolizes; “The US government is torturing people at Guantanamo Bay,” we tell them. Most nod and look sober, then give us the thumbs up or a peace sign; a few turn red-faced with indignation, yell something about traitors, and give us the “one-fingered salute.” I am particularly amused by the man in the black luxury car, sealed up in his air-con, expensive black suit, who drives by with his middle finger raised serenely. What a pathetic, empty gesture, I think. It’s that kind of insularity that has created all the problems in this country.

Next to us on the sidewalk is an open sewer vent where men are working; it sends hot steam into the air, which blows our way, adding to the already considerable midday heat. David is still as a stone (from artist model training, he says) but Desiree and I move around uncomfortably, trying to escape the heat. Two guys in uniforms come and close the vent—we strike up a conversation. They ask what we’re doing, we tell them. One asks a lot of questions; the other nods—he knows already. I say, “Whew, that was hot—thanks for closing that.”

“Yeah, we saw that you were getting really hot, so I called my boss and he said we could close it,” he tells me. I had no idea he was closing the vent for our benefit, and am suddenly, tearfully grateful. There is solidarity in the most unexpected places. Liz, who is walking around with the bullhorn calling, “Resign, resign, resign, Mr. Attorney General,” catches the worker as he pulls down the yellow caution tape. “Can we have that?” she asks with her characteristic chutzpah. “It could come in handy.” He grins knowingly at her and, shaking his head in amusement, hands it over.

The weather today is perfect, the air perfumed with heady late spring. Back home for a couple of hours—after a late night and an early rising (impossible to sleep in around here)— I’m groggy as I try to finish a blog, and slide into a nap in the well-fanned air of my 2nd floor bedroom. Liz (again) wakens me with a shout and demand, “We’re going, we’re out of here, we’re gonna have fun, fun, fun!” and I’m up, pushing my hair into a clasp, pulling shoes on—“Are we walking? What shoes do I need?” I ask as I stumble downstairs half awake. Medea is petite and elegant in a flowing blouse, but Liz and Barbara have on jeans so I reckon my pink sweatshirt is acceptable. I’m still yawning (it’s 5 pm; I must’ve slept for awhile) as we race-walk down 5th Street toward Union Station. “Where’re we going?” I ask again. To a reception for Nancy Pelosi’s 20th anniversary in congress. WHAT? I’m not DRESSED, I think. Ah well.

We get there and the reception area is being closed off and wait staff carry chairs from all directions. Barbara (using the harmless, white-haired granny disguise—little do they know, ha ha!) asks what’s going on and when it’s going to start. We find out that it will be a couple of hours before anything significant happens, so we decide to join Desiree and others at the Hilary Clinton event in Central Lot. The (current) leading contender for President of the United States is speaking in a parking lot? Not only that, sharing the bill with her is an American Idol finalist—not even the winner, mind you. I sigh in disgust. This is how the US people choose their elected representatives—just like they choose a TV-created celebrity. What a sad, sad state of affairs.

To add insult to injury, we arrive to find Des and a local Pinkler, Brenda, on the sidewalk outside the blocked off event. “They saw the pink and wouldn’t let us in,” Des tells us, and describes the nearly foaming-at-the-mouth rant the “I support Hill” campaign went into at the sight of her. “I recognize you,” the site manager had accused. “Are you here to sing more songs?” he asked in a nasty tone. And Code Pink was banned, just like that. It was a ticketed event, and we all had tickets—hmm, remind you of any other presidential campaign events? Like, oh, I don’t know, the REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION and debates of 2004? HELLO! When Hillary Clinton begins using the same tactics to shut down dissent and free speech as the law-breakers and war-criminals currently occupying the White House, things have come to a pretty pass. I recall the old adage, “Those who use the tools of the oppressors become themselves the oppressors,” and realize that, Democrat, woman or not, Ms. Rodham the feminist justice advocate has morphed into MRS. CLINTON, the powermonger.

It makes me sad to think that I cannot support the first woman candidate for president who has any serious chance of getting the nomination. As far as her ability to win, well, I think she is the Republican party’s wet-dream (in a totally non-sexual context, of course). They can stir up so much shit about Hillary—plus play on the not-by-a-long-shot dead white male fear of powerful women. Completely apart from my disgust at her lack of integrity and support for the war (and notable refusal to say she was wrong), she has such a tarnished, dirty past … well, it’s not like almost any national candidate doesn’t, and I don’t believe personal history should play into electability … but if the Bush administration falls because of corruption, lies and lack of rule of law, I really can’t see that Mrs. Clinton is much of a step up.

Somewhat perversely pleased at having so much power the Clinton campaign is afraid of us, we return to Union Station for Nancy Pelosi’s party and find it in full swing. As members of congress that we know—and some we don’t—head for the red carpet, we approach them. This is Democrat territory, so most greet us with warmth and sincere (sounding, anyway) thanks for our work. I feel horribly underdressed in my ratty sweatshirt covered in Code Pink buttons—although I’m proud of the 3497 armband (the number of US dead in Iraq through today) as the well-dressed representatives, aides and lobbyists shake our hands; but there are no snide remarks or even disapproving glances. They seem genuinely impressed with our presence. Again, I am amazed at the apparent power of a few women dressed in pink. Medea has removed her elegant blouse and replaced it with a short “Troops Home Now” t-shirt, which she clearly wears with pride. Desiree tells the attendees, “Enjoy the reception,” but to us says, “yes, while our troops subsist on single rations a day and tainted water.” Yet these are the halls of power where we must make friends and allies—and it’s clear that we have them.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards (resplendent in a nubby-fabricked, pearl-buttoned pink suit—we all need one of those!) and lobbyists from transport and environmental groups seek us out to chat. Most humbling for me is the group of California representatives—Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey—who are smiling and welcoming and fun and glad to see us. So many people thank us for what we’re doing, it’s a bit overwhelming. By eight o’clock, the wait staff (there must be 100 of them, snaking across the marble foyer in a never-ending stream) are carrying out the dinner plates, and Barbara and I decide to go home for dinner. We leave Medea, Desiree and Liz, energized to the max—this is their element—and schmoozing til the end. Back at the Pink House, my head is full of stories and experience, and I hurry to write it all down. It is impossible to capture, however, this infusion of faith and optimism brought on by the Power of Pink.


Alie said...

Hey pink ladies!
I'm in DC for the week taking a class on policy and advocacy for social workers and focusing on Medicaid. I am a Code Pinker from Boston and wasn't sure if anything was going on tomorrow during the day that I could possibly drop in on.

JimPreston said...

We are at the Justice Dept. (Constitution and 11th) almost every day between 12-1. Walk all the way around the building if you don't see us.

Morgaine said...

Hi, Alie. Heaps of other things tomorrow as well--CP DC will be tabling at Taming the Giant Corporation
A National Conference on Corporate Accountability
June 8-10, 1530 P St NW, Washington DC

from early in the morning--Medea will be there, and others, so come out if you can. If you miss us there, come to Justice and hook up with us; stuff all afternoon as well ;-)

Morgaine said...

Or drop by the Pink House at 712 5th st NE. Near Union Station!

Janet said...

I'll be at the Pink House for 3 weeks in July, so glad to read a report about actions that I would love to have been part of, and look forward to my busy days and nights starting June 30!

deidra lynch said...

Oh Kit!
Thank you for capturing a glimpse into the Power of Pink. And it truly IS an "infusion of faith and optimism" that keeps the women in that house going out to represent us every day. Please give all of them hugs for me and tell them I am still there in spirit but I'm working hard down here to kick some butt in Florida with Lydia and all of the other CODEPINK Florida women that came up for Mother's Day!

Inspired and infused by our trip to DC, we are all stronger here now because of our time there in May. I earnestly hope your story inspires others to go to DC this summer so they too can feel the Power of Pink!

ps. I am STILL wearing nothing but PINK, 4 weeks today!