Thursday, March 25, 2010

Amazing Civilization!

Having spent this past Sunday seeing the dregs of society on the south lawn of the Capitol, I was ready for an alternative experience. Little did I think I'd get it on Amtrak. 

I decided to ride the rails to Chicago, having not taken the train for longer than the Joliet to Springfield stint years ago. Something about spending $500 on a r/t air ticket between DC and Chicago that rubbed me wrong, especially when it is for a George Winston benefit concert for HEAR US, my organization.

Union Station was a-buzz with junior hi kids being herded by chaperones and "suits" hopping between the Hill and Wall Street, or so I imagine. With time to spare I meandered and observed, though not able to get to my camera deeply embedded in one of my 2 carry-ons. 

The Amtrak area was packed, and with very little direction--a scarcity of A personnel--civilization worked. The cattle-gates helped, but no one seemed annoyed or irritated as they lined up for what is a full train. The A-folks seemed to drop the ball when it came to organizing the early boarding, but even that went better than I expected.

If you look at any public scene--from crowded intersections ruled only by traffic lights, or busy urban sidewalks--you might be amazed to see what can normally be pleasant encounters. It can happen. We humans are still capable of it, despite being egged on by media and pundits.

I'm happy so far to be bouncing along on our nation's railway, enjoying the last moments of daylight over the West VA and MD countryside. It's reassuring that we can still be trusted to be with each other and even extend a bit of concern and help when the opportunity arises.

Seems to me the true test will be in the morning as we all awaken and grope for coffee or whatever else gets our engine rolling. I'll wear a warning label!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tillie Perks Make My Witness Possible

Sometimes Tillie is a blessing, sometimes a curse. Today I'd say blessing if I can extract the moment where, after missing a turn, I had to back down a narrow residential road that dead-ended on me. 

I'm in the DC area for a few days and, because I could, I spent several hours witnessing democracy at its worst and best today. I took the Metro into the Capitol area, and saw the health care issue splayed out on the Capitol lawn. Testing the capacity of the Capitol police, but much more orderly, immigration supporters amassed on the trampled grass mid-Mall by the, um, merry-go-round. Seriously! 

People who know me know where I stand on both of the issues. So I'll share my photos and a few thoughts I think are worth sharing.

First, isn't it amazing that despite the apparent "crazies" and the amount of ignorant nay-saying that naturally arises about any issue, that people can walk about our nation's capital and express themselves? When I saw guns strapped to the hips of some seemingly strange people I did hesitate being happy about this unfettered democracy, but's why our country was formed.

Of the issue-ites, I bow to immigration reform supporters. Most people of color and some  pale-faces (though I'm tanned after today's weather) did more to get to this spot of being able to wave flags and signs in support of a controversial issue than any of the rest of us, myself included. For example...

...for most, their trip to the good ol' US of A wasn't first class. The accounts I've heard and read about were harrowing to say the least. Read Enrique's Journey for starters. I've driven close enough to Ciudad Juarez, across the river from El Paso, TX, and felt like I could hear the cries for help. Violence, the complicated kind that thwarts the officials' attempt to halt it, has wreaked unimaginable horrors on residents and visitors alike. 

I've heard firsthand of labor abuses common to those whose documentation may be questionable. It's hard to call the cops for crimes when the cops will want to arrest the complainants before the abuser. I could go on and on. I only hope that the stand taken today, at greater risk than most of us would be willing to take, will bring about some massive improvements in how we treat P-E-O-P-L-E.

HC conversations either spilled out as heated "discussions" between people with little in common, or as small groups of righteous-sounding people vehemently upholding their opposition, with tones acceptable for Super Bowl games and the insights to match. I resisted chiming in from the other side about people I know, from family to homeless adults and children, who suffered mightily because of this greatly-tilted unhealthy playing field. 

This isn't the Super Bowl, but you couldn't tell that standing outside our nation's place of deliberation. I won't excuse the bipartisan buying and selling votes that runs rampant, but we have a process, and need to stick with it to make it work.  Let's take the energy expended on confrontations and use it to examine the actions of our political and governmental leaders.

I'm back in Tillie now, comfortable for the most part, waiting for the official outcome of the HC vote, much like I did when I sat in a state park in north Louisiana awaiting the final score of the Super Bowl game. 

Seems to me that when we have so much at stake we might want to try committing ourselves to civility as step one (such as the silent vigil this man made). It makes the next steps so much easier. But what would people do for entertainment?