This is #8 in my ongoing series*, "Signs of Sisterhood" about the Women's Marches that took place on January 21, 2017, on the heels of President Trump's inauguration. I'm keeping this coverage of this historic event going in order to keep the energy and momentum alive during these challenging times.
My guest today is Seattle resident, Court Crawford, an upright bass player, composer, and transplanted New Yorker, who retired from Microsoft in 2014.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Court. You took part in the Women's March on January 21st. Why?
Court Crawford: I participated for several reasons. The primary one is that I believe women's rights are human rights. If any citizens are subject to injustice, then we're all threatened. I'm very concerned about having a confessed sexual predator in the White House; it seems we were finally beginning to breach the important subject of rape culture, which is the first step to evolving beyond it. I wanted to lend my voice to the resistance to let the world know that the majority of US citizens are opposed to rape, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and war mongering. All these issues are connected.
I hope that recognition of the rights of women, and the power of the feminine, will lead to greater awareness of the biosphere as a whole. The stakes have never been greater, with atmospheric CO2 forcing us to deal directly with our addiction to fossil fuels and, by extension, our rape culture of the earth itself. I understand elections have consequences, and concede that there are differences of opinion amongst people of good faith, but I also want to draw the line and not concede the slim gains we have been making as a nation. I participated to let the GOP know that we're not conceding our progressive ideals or agenda just because gerrymandering and the electoral college elected a minority candidate based on campaign lies.
JB: Tell us about the march. Did you go with family? Friends? Was it at all like you were expecting, whatever that was?
CC: I went with a good friend, who is also my housemate. She and I attempted to ride the bus into downtown, but the number of people trying to do so overwhelmed the regularly scheduled bus services. We waited for over an hour for a bus which had been scheduled to arrive every 30 minutes; busses were bypassing the stop because they were already full. One kind man was ferrying people across the bridge in his car - he arrived three times at our bus stop offering rides to the march. One of the people in line for the bus near us called an UberX and there was room for my friend and me so we all rode together to the march. The side streets in Seattle were teeming with marchers, so we got out of the car several blocks from the march route and joined in. Attendance at the march exceeded my expectations. All along the route, I would look ahead and behind and never saw the end of the crowd. It was great to be with such a large public demonstration of tolerance and acceptance for one another.
It felt like a somber yet determined celebration. At one point, a pair of bald eagles circled over the route and the crowd cheered in celebration of what appeared to be support from nature in the form of the national bird. I think it was probably great for local businesses, too. We stopped in to my favorite Vietnamese deli to grab sandwiches and coffee and they were packed. Along the route, I bumped into my eldest daughter, which was a great chance encounter. My son was also marching, but we never came close to them; the crowd was just too large. I was surprised that when the march ended, there wasn't a large stage or something to focus the collective attention on speakers or artists. Chances are that, had there been such a focus point, it would have been overwhelmed. I've seen crowd estimates between 100,000 and 175,000 people. There is no place large enough to hold that crowd in Seattle.
JB: It's wild the way you randomly ran into your daughter amid the throngs. How does the march fit into your own traditional level of civic participation? Was this par for the course for you or something more unusual?
CC: I have not prioritized going to many demonstrations recently, though I have been volunteering to support the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, and attended a couple of marches and protests to encourage the Seattle City Council to stop banking with institutions that support the Dakota Access Pipeline project. I called my representatives and senators at least every few weeks for much of the past year, but the swing to a GOP regime that seems to have its sights set on denying climate change, ignoring the Paris Accords, crippling or dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantling the Department of Education, accelerating the disenfranchisement of non-white voters, all has gotten me very committed to not going along quietly.
I really do believe that anthropogenic climate change is an existential threat. I don't want to live in a world where almost every coastal city, and many low lying nations, have to be evacuated. Climate change is in fact partially responsible for the Syrian civil war, due to an extraordinary run of drought years which made it difficult for the Assad government to deliver basic supplies to the citizens. Look at what the refugees from that one nation are doing to international politics. I guess what I'm saying is these are desperate times, and they call for more aggressive measures to pull civilization back from the brink of destruction.
JB: I think there are a lot of people out there who agree with you completely. You have an interesting background. You were a child of a State Department employee and spent some of your early years in Vietnam. Do you think that experience has colored your world view?
CC: I'm certain it has. My first languages, long forgotten, were Vietnamese and French. My father, after divorcing my mom, went on to work in Bangkok, Seoul, Lahore, and Kinshasa, so I was always aware there was a lot of the world outside of the US. My parents divorced when I was three, and I was raised in my mother's house after that. My mother and stepfather took me to anti-war marches in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I think that knowing I lived in Vietnam, and knowing my first friends were still in Saigon and Hue/Ho Chi Minh city, always made me curious as to the Vietnamese position in the conflict with the US. Odds are my first friends were killed in the war.
I still remember the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. I remember the pain I felt even as a child. I was crestfallen when my high school campaign to champion George McGovern failed to elect him as the US president. By the mid 1970s, I had joined a political study group in my high school and we marched in Washington DC to put pressure on Nixon to end the Vietnam war and resign. I've always believed in democracy, and specifically that it can't fulfill its greatest promise until all citizens have an equal voice. Since we're a nation of immigrants, and since I'm in the most privileged position as a white male in the US, I've always been curious to understand minority communities.