We woke early on 10 March as we planned to attend a political meeting with one of our Congressional representatives, Tom Reed, at the Southside Community Center in Ithaca. Knowing that he would be confronting a hostile audience, he had scheduled the meeting for 8 AM on Saturday morning—surely in hopes that most would not want to be up and about that early on a weekend. Or perhaps it was intended to favor his supporters in other areas of the state, whose meetings were scheduled at more civilized hours. We’d learned the night before that to get into the Community Center (which held over 500 people), we would have to get there at 6 AM to get tickets, and even then, only questions that had been submitted the night before would be addressed by Reed.
In any event, we decided to go to the meeting. As we left the house, we noticed that the outside temperature was 8° F. Donning our long johns, down coats, wool socks, boots, warm gloves, and in my case, one of my Pussy Hats, we headed downtown. Parking was not easy, and, not for the first time, we were grateful that we had a handicapped placard and could thus park reasonably close to the venue.
The street had been closed off and police were guarding both ends. There was a long line of people who had not yet been able to get into the building, and the street was filling up with warmly dressed folks. A number of other women had on their Pussy Hats. I’d brought an extra, one of the many I‘ve made, and gave it to a woman with a bare head. Many had signs similar to those at the Women’s March and the atmosphere was convivial among the would-be audience, which seemed almost unanimous in their concerns. There were signs that said ‘Single Payer Health Care’, ‘Disagree’, ‘Get your hands off my ?$%?#’, ‘Support Planned Parenthood’, and more. One said “You say you ‘love’ America, but you hate Americans.” People chanted “Love, Justice”, “Love, Justice”, “Love, Justice”. Then “Single Payer Health Care”. There were so many issues that the crowd agreed on—health care, Trump’s tax returns, his Russian connection, protecting the environment, education, women’s rights, reproductive rights, inclusion—-it was hard to believe that there were so many key issues that were endangered under this regime. And Reed was an apologist for all the policies that endangered them!
Ithaca Bakery had donated sweets and hot drinks, and we were invited (but not required) to contribute to the Southside Community Center when we imbibed. A cup of decaf and a brownie helped to ease the pain of the severe cold in my fingers. The temperature had risen to 14° F by 8:30 or so, but it was still bitterly cold, and felt colder the longer we stood in the street. A loudspeaker had been set up , so we could hear the meeting going on inside. Reed began his talk by inviting us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Many of us gladly chimed in (many leaving out “under God”). We turned up the volume at the end, loudly chanting the final phrases “with liberty and justice for all”, “with liberty and justice for all”, “with liberty and justice for all”. The crowd responded with boo’s and chants as Reed expressed his unpopular opinions and policies. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton gave an impassioned and well-reasoned response to his comments on health care, giving data and specifics about the projected adverse effects in New York of the Republican ‘reform’ being proposed.
After an hour within, he came out and addressed the 500 or so additional citizens who had not been able to get in. Again, the crowd listened to what he had to say and we loudly expressed our opinions (almost all negative) about his positions. One person held up a rectangular board with a pointer positioned center bottom. She turned the dial from the left (‘fact’), through “irrelevant pivot”, to “distraction” and “misleading” to the far right (‘lie’) and beyond, as Reed spoke.
Reed was confident in his own opinions, stating that he had been clear about his positions, that the voters knew them and that he would not have been elected had there not been a sizable, even majority of voters who preferred his views to ours. There is no question that many in New York, particularly in rural areas, share his perspectives. But that was certainly not the case among the group gathered today to listen to him.
At 71 years old, this is the second time in my life that I have taken to the streets. The vile policies that are being considered under the Trump regime have awakened a political consciousness among many of us that has not been necessary since the 1960s. I will not quit; I will persevere; and I know many others will as well. Standing together in the cold on the streets of Ithaca (and beyond) reinforces our convictions, heightens our motivation to resist, and stimulates us to further action to protect the America we have known and loved. Our Pussy Hats add a lightness that helps to maintain the peace and the humour that will carry us through these dark times to brighter days ahead. Wear your Pussy Hat with pride, march, assemble, write and call your Congress people, run for office, and contribute to the optimism, national cohesion, and persistence that will be needed to avert disaster.