I wasn’t one of the 120,000 that attended the Women’s March in Seattle last weekend. I was headed to a workshop in the UDistrict in preparation of Homeless Advocacy Day next month in Olympia.
As my bus headed north, leaving the South End and heading into the teeth of the rally – more and more protesters – mostly young people boarded the bus. Many carried anti-Trump signs and many women wore “pussy hats” — whoever thought that term would become part of our lexicon?
Often I bring a book along to read in this case, Hunter Thompson’s The Proud Highway, but sometimes it’s just more interesting to listen to the other passengers. It wasn’t difficult to learn something about the boisterous protesters. When new people boarded they spotted old friends and exchanged hugs. And veterans were anxious to learn about the newcomers.
Sitting on a side bench I sat next to a young woman with a trombone, originally from Chicago. She’d played in her high school band and was now bringing her musical skills to street protests. Next to her sat a young woman from Alabama who was looking forward to the march. I chuckled to myself – from the South but a Seattleite at heart. Still another woman in her 20s was traveling with her mother — the family that protests together, stays together?
A college-aged young man, quiet, unassuming and dressed in black — although not an anarchist — captured my attention. “I was always socially awkward but I started to get politically involved,” he explained. “You get to talk to people about things that are important; not foolish stuff.”
As someone who was painfully shy in high school, I could relate to what he was saying. We all find our niche in life and some of my best relationships have been with those who are politically active. But alas, I attended a mostly commuter school (living almost next door to my high school, I wasn’t much of a traveler in those days), as a decade of political protesting on campus was coming to a close. Apathy was in for Reagan’s “me decade,” and we were on the cusp of the “animal houses” of the 1980s.
Working in newspapers in the 1980s and 1990s I lived vicariously through co-workers who were 5-10 years younger than me and told some outlandish stories about their college days. The University of Rhode Island, which churned out a lot of journalism majors, was the biggest party school in Southern New England where I worked: drinking started on Thursdays and giant keg parties ran non-stop throughout the weekends. But that wasn’t me.
The protesters departed the bus and a part of me was envious. Oh, I worry about what the future has to offer them — we might be headed towards World War III sooner than later — but these youngsters had a feeling of pride that they were doing something important. And they had found their niche, which is even more important.