Thursday, January 26, 2017

Life As a Snowflake - Part Two

When a lot of snowflakes come together they can create a blizzard

The day after the inauguration the Women's March was planned. Begun by a single woman utilizing social media a worldwide protest movement was formed. As I headed to work that morning the El platform was crowded with people. Some wearing pink, some carrying signs, one entire family with children, came through the turnstiles and headed to the trains that would carry them south to Grant Park, where the Chicago march was to begin. Already the march route had to be changed to accommodate the growing number of expected participants. The original estimate of 22,000 people had swelled to 55,000. I sent a text to my cousin, knowing she was on her way, to tell her that all the signs I was seeing were pointing to a large turnout.

By the time the rally and march was scheduled to begin the crowd had grown to 150,000 to 200,000 people, making an organized march unsafe and impossible. The rally went on as scheduled. A multitude of causes were represented, women's reproductive rights, equality for women, LGBT people and persons of color and different faiths. There were signs regarding access to health care and wealth inequality. Individual voices had formed a choir. There were marches and rallies not only across the country but around the world, Berlin, London, Prague and Peru. A photo showed a bridge across the Seine in Paris swarming with humanity. For the first time since the election I felt hopeful. I felt as if we, the people, might still be capable of forming the perfect union envisioned by our founding fathers.

Later that evening comments on social media, as well as main stream media, that means you CNN, attempted to belittle and trivialize the event. Perhaps concerned that something had happened that was larger than them, that something had happened that they would not be able to spin or control. They said it was unfocused and leaderless. Nothing more than a gathering of privileged white liberals. Yet photos showed people of color, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian and Jewish, all banding together, side by side.

A photo of my cousin's tween daughter was shared on Facebook marching past Chicago's Bean. She is of Mayan descent, adopted at 6 months old by her out, proud, lesbian moms. They are, like I, an out, proud, gay man, Americans. A representation of the melting pot, that badge that we have for so many generations worn with honor. My fathers forebears part of the "tempest tossed" welcomed to this country upon their arrival.

Perhaps it was just one day, or perhaps it was the beginning of something larger. However it ends it was, for that moment in time, a blizzard of snowflakes. A massive, peaceful gathering of humanity demanding to be treated as human.

Life As a Snowflake - Part One

You are free to call me a snowflake. Snowflakes are beautiful and each is different than the other.

The Cubs were in the midst of the World Series as we boarded the bus on our way to Soldier Field. For the 2nd time in 2 years we had been gifted with seats to a Bears game. The energy in the city was electric. Even those who were not Cubs fans were, at that moment, Cubs fans. As we walked past the Field Museum the giant dinosaur sculpture outside wore an equally gigantic Cubs jersey.

That night was a travel day for the Cubs so only one game mattered in Chicago, the match up between the Bears, suffering through a beleaguered season, and the Minnesota Vikings. We planned an early arrival so we could take a self guided tour of the stadium. We traveled down to the seats close to the field where the "other half" sits, our seats were in the mezzanine (I'm not complaining they are awesome seats) and surveyed the growing crowd. As it was Halloween a number of the fans were in costume. Rainbow Brite strolled by. Two young men, who were featured on the jumbo tron as they took their seats, were dressed in sherbert colored Willie Wonka outfits. There were a number of horned hats, a homage to the opposing team playing that night. Even a few in all out Viking regalia.

As the game progressed it appeared that, however implausible given the level of play that season, the Bears might win, Again, it being Halloween, the people that run onto the field waving flags during breaks in the action were also in costume. Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Thor apparently had no evil villains to fight that evening as they were on the field in front of us, waving flags. In a nod to the Cubs a person dressed as the Cubs mascot dashed across the field waving a World Series banner, a blue W on a solid white field. The Bears did win that evening and we left the stadium happy, having had a wonderful night.

Two nights later, at a little after midnight, the Cubs won the World Series, for the first time in over one hundred years. Like many of our neighbors in our cluster of lakefront high rises we were out on our balcony yelling, banging spoons against pots and ringing bells to celebrate. The sound of bottle rockets going off in the surrounding area could be heard.

A week later I watched as election returns began to come in. In dismay and disbelief I watched as state after state went to Donald Trump, some by the slimest of margins. Due to the antiquated nature of  the Electoral College he had become President despite receiving almost 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most qualified person to ever run for the office.

Although he has no popular mandate he has filled his cabinet and staff with picks as equally unqualified, inexperienced and frankly, dangerous as he. A Secretary of Labor that does not belief in a minimum wage and is attempting to automate many of the tasks in his business now performed by people. Machines, he says, do not cause trouble, they don't ask to be treated as human beings. A
Secretary of Education that does not belief in, and has never sent her children to, public schools. She prefers a voucher system. These could be used for "for profit" and Christian schools, destroying the barrier between church and state. It would allow my tax dollars to be used to line someones pockets and in some cases in religious education teach students that my lifestyle has no validity and is "immoral". A Secretary of State with close ties to, in fact lauded by, a nation that meddled in our election.

I felt, during those days, that barring a serious health issue or horrible accident, I would still be living at the end of this presidential term. I felt, during those days, that the nation I would see would not be the same as the one I grew up in. I felt, during those days, that the U.S. might be viewed by some as a rogue country. I felt, during those days that the nation could be left in tatters. I only hoped, during those days, that we had enough needles, thread and will to repair it.