Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bakers in D.C.:Why We're Here and What It's Like

We arrived in D.C. two days ago, and it feels like twenty. We have done so much, learned a great deal, and continue to learn as we soak in the atmosphere of Washington and explore our nation's capitol from a pink perspective.

I wanted to bring my children here to continue a family tradition of protesting war that began with my father and mother more than 40 years ago. My father was a WWII vet who was stationed in Burma for some time repairing helicopter engines. He, like many of the vets stationed in Indochina who opposed the Vietnam War, knew something of the terrain and people, and protesting the war became the great passion of his life. He drew the family with him into a multitude of causes and interests. By my 11 year old daughter's age, I had read Julius Walker's collection"To Be a Slave", Malcolm X's Autobiography, heard Ralph Nader speak at a Holiday Inn in Ct, joined the Earth Action Group, an early environmental group in Ct, painted a sign for my father which he wore at the local A&P during the winter Cambodia was bombed, etc... My mother started a peace group in Carbondale, Colorado a few years ago, and has been a dynamic and vocal presence for peace and justice in her community. I have five sisters who are with me and my three daughters in spirit, and have all protested our involvement in Iraq. The group, women driven and initiated, is one that fits well with our tradition of advocating for peace, and offers us a chance to think about and translate the challenges to realizing a peaceful world in our time where we live.

First, there is the House. It is a twenty minute walk to the Capitol, and as you come up to it, there is a pink banner in the window, and a memorial outside to a soldier, Alex Arredondo, who died in Iraq, and whose father frequently visits the house.

There are pink paper parasols in the front room that say "War is Not Green" and "Czech No Bases" , an enormous poster that reads "Don't Buy Bush's War!" with the Capitol building and a shopping market with skulls and tanks on it, a large television with featured stations written in pink with station numbers CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, CSPAN, COMEDY, FREE SPEECH next to each. Below the TV on a link sheet of paper is a list of "Stink Tanks" AEI (American Enterprise Institute), CSIS (Center for Strategic International Studies), Heritage and Cato. I am writing on a little desk a couple feet from the television and there are pink plastic clocks on the wall, and bulletin boards with signup charts for chores, and a schedule of the day ahead with the hearings and their locations targeted for CodePink's presence. It is busy and cheerful and grim all at once here. The house has been furnished on a shoestring so it is very reminiscent of the college shares I knew years ago at Wesleyan University, but the women here are for the most part middle-aged, like me. They are excited to meet the children and have been doing their best to explain their strategies and movements as we have followed them about.

The children and I share a room on the top floor which had a little welcome sign on the door. As I write the girls are in the basement where they are assisting in banner making. Down there is a wonderful collection of banners and costuming - which the group draws upon for its signature pink presence wherever it goes.

We put on our hats and shirts at the opening of the day and head for the halls of Congress, where we see the well groomed young staffers and suited seniors in the halls, along with many police. I feel sweaty by the time we finish our walk and a little out of place but comforted and protected by being a part of our pink band. One of my daughters was very impressed by the fact that we were followed by an uncdercover police person in a large grey SUV.

Yesterday I wore one of the only pink garments I have - a Hard Rock cafe shirt with a purple image of Jimi Hendrix on it. I went to visit my Congresswoman's office and felt a bit odd, being a League of Women Voters member far more used to donning staid garb when meeting with my local representatives.

We attended a hearing in which Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense was subpoenaed for his testimony on interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo. He appeared with two witnesses who were articulate critics of the policies he had promoted.

All for now.........

1 comment:

JimPreston said...

I'm so glad you have been enjoying your stay!! Sorry I couldn't give you all a lift to the Capitol in the heat. Rule Number 1 in DC in the Summer is 'Don't Move'!!