There are moments in your life when a strong emotion wells up, an elation for being alive in the present moment, for bearing witness. The birth of your child. A wedding. Sitting on a folding chair in my first town hall was like that.
Last night, February 24, 2017, VA District 10 Indivisible hosted a town hall for Representative Barbara Comstock who, like most of her Republican colleagues, has ducked such events. I was one of 150 people there to ask questions and better understand our Congresswoman’s positions on topics such as healthcare, immigration, education, the environment, and democracy itself. The event was streamed live for hundreds more. First-hand I witnessed and participated in free speech and free assembly. How did I get to do this? I just showed up. After weeks of reading articles, posting on Facebook, liking friend’s articles, tweeting, I did something in real life, and I showed up.
I feel compelled to do more. With each passing day, this feeling grows.
I wanted to leap out of my chair at the Town Hall. I wanted to run out in the street and flag down passing cars and yell, “Come on, are you with us? We can do this.” How hard is it really to vote in an election, in EVERY election? Not just the ones every four years, but next year’s Virginia elections for governor, Attorney General, and every state delegate? Not everything is as easy as voting. It takes time to learn how our government works, to read bills, to call, call, call on the issues. Not just now, but from now until the day I die. But that’s what I’m going to do.
The catalyst was being there the day of the Woman’s March on Washington, pressed into the crowed of half a million people, a flood of signs, smiles, and pink pussy hats. Last night was gasoline on the fire in my belly. I encourage anyone reading this to keep doing the online stuff, keep calling if you are doing that, but find a way to do something in the world, and make human contact. It. Feels. Good.
I watched the people line up for the microphone, patiently waiting for their turn to speak, to tell their stories and ask their questions. The guy who said he’d never been to a political event in his life, he teared up explaining that he was there because his 5-year-old son’s best friend was born here, but his parents were undocumented and rightly worried. Passionate was the mother who is worried about clean air and water for her kids, for my kids, for all of us. And on an on. Dozens of thoughtful, incredibly articulate people addressed a panel of citizen researchers and activists, and the empty chair and microphone where Barbara Comstock had no excuse for not occupying. We were a respectful crowd, not a mob. It was beautiful. We clapped with every statement and question.
You had to be there to understand the power of the moment (this is what I am telling you), you had to be there, when retired colonel Mike Turner pulled out his pocket-sized constitution and read the Emoluments Clause. “It’s one sentence!” he said, “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
I leapt to my feet. So did everybody else. Mike Turner, please run again for congress. I will knock on doors for you. Knocking on doors is on my to-do list. Sending post cards to politicians is on my to-do list. Attending more town halls is on my to-do list. Attending street protests is on my to-do list. Registering new voters is on my to-do list. Driving around on Election Day in 2017 and 2018 (taking that day off) and taking old people and car-less people to the polls is on my to-do list. Yes We Can. Si, se puede!
Read the Washington Post news story.