Jeremias X Goes To Washington (Part 2)
Posted by jeremiasx on September 24, 2007
My ride with the trucker named Dennis got me all the way to Rock Point, Maryland. After quickly ascertaining that trying to move about in the DC metro area by the thumb was a ludicrous and insanely futile prospect, I decided to check out the public transit system. The bus pulled into a large mall parking deck and I ran across the parking lot to catch it, pausing along the way to note a young Chinese kid on a double-length skateboard with in-line wheels…transportation evolves in some venues quicker than others.
I was delighted to find that my trip over to the rail station would cost under a dollar, and then further surprised to find that I could take the subway into the heart of DC for less than two bucks. The subway station was clean and so were the cars themselves, a far cry from the sinister zombie express that one sees in the horror flicks. I enjoyed the ride, which only took about fifteen minutes. I bet anyone driving would have taken an hour or more in serious traffic. Public transportation FTW.
I noticed upon disembarking at the Metro Center Station in DC proper that the entire station was plastered with a recurring theme of picture-ads…on the walls, the sides of the rails around the escalators, everywhere (even in the mens’ room I’m sure, though I was a little nervous of running into a Larry Craig or someone of their ilk in a public DC restroom upon first arrival.) Just kidding. A little.
The theme of the ads was surprisingly not for any corporate slogan for cola or some new wonder drug for the masses…well not exactly. The ads were for a group promoting the idea of universal health care access. The most noble campaign effort I’d seen in quite a while, especially on such a large scale.
I stepped out onto the DC sidewalk and was immediately struck by the prevalence of homeless people. Not just the obvious ones laid out with all their gear on park benches, but the much less obvious dirty and shady characters hanging in the shadows of the rail station entryway bumming cigarettes and change, the silent and sick ones who huddled in the alleyways cursing God and themselves, and the youngsters who still had the knack to hustle a buck and wear designer clothes that were impressive even if days unwashed.
I was able to head straight towards Capital Hill on the advice of the subway entry attendant, the public information officer or whatever…nice fellow. I paused at various places of interest for short periods to rest my blistered feet, drink water from the public fountains (which are abundant in DC) or even take pictures of things I thought were interesting, such as the blocked up entrance to the Department of Justice…no access there for sure these days.
By the time I reached Capital Hill my feet were really worn out, though I felt a new sense of purpose as I paused to remark with fellow tourists and travelers about the dismal state of the nation. I guess liberals hang out at the Capital reflecting pool like they supposedly do in the media…or whatever.
I caught a couple free t-shirts and made a new friend before I ever went up the steps. I made positive remarks on her “Arrest Bush” t-shirt and she asked me if I wanted one…I said sure, but I have no money for a donation because I hitchhiked up here and have limited funds which weren’t really set for buying souvenirs. She insisted I take two shirts nonetheless and affirmed her faith that others would give more to make up the difference. The second shirt has the motto “We Will Not Be Silent” in Farsi with English underneath, and is a message that alludes to the White Rose Society in the Nazi German era in which many Jews were speaking out against their perception that their race was being singled out for persecution unjustly. It alludes to a point in time when something could have still been done easily to avoid the rise of the powerful Nazi state that crushed this type of dissent in concentration camps with the silent murders of millions, once things had progressed to that point. The seeds of democracy and the seeds of tyranny are long planted in the heart of every state…
I was told to stop and visit with “Start Loving” at the Cannon Office Building, and I made my way over there under the watchful eyes of what seemed to by fifty or more Capital Police armed with everything from the walkie-talkie to fearsome looking riot-action shotguns…I bellowed out a happy Arkansas “howdy” to many of them and received an interesting variety of responses…which was typical of my entire visit, really.
Upon arriving at the Cannon Office Building, I encountered a sight that made my heart merry and sad at the same time. A man with three crosses tattooed across his forehead wearing placards saying “Don’t Bomb Iran” and “Hunger Strike”…
I sat down next to him and we had a wonderful conversation about the prospects of peace and the idea of self-denial as a means of focus in the quest for self-actualization and attainment of a higher understanding of spiritual purity. It was apparent to me even after a few minutes that this man was operating on a much higher level of faith than I, and I had thought myself to on solid ground as it were already. For instance, the three crosses on his forehead comprise what he understands to be the name of God…love…the middle cross says “Start Loving” and he has adopted that as his name of preference. He will factor into the story again later. I sat there and shared my experiences with the world and we laughed and wept together for some time. On one note we did have occasion to disagree…I told him of my plans to talk to the people there in DC and around the country, and he admonished that I temper my righteous anger with peace and love. I reminded him that in one of my favorite New Testament stories, Jesus sat down on the temple steps and braided a whip to drive out the money changers and those who defiled the place and works of God. We acknowledged that the Divine does work it’s wonders in manners both creative and destructive. We parted agreeing in solidarity that peace was the best cause worth pursuing as an extension of love, which is God. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers can dwell in peace.”
I ascended the steps to the House and Senate offices there by the Capital with a feeling of surety that something was amiss in DC…and I found out quickly what it was. The policymakers, the Congressmen and Congresswomen…were not “in the office.” They had taken an early break and were all conveniently “away from their desks.” I stopped by office after office of the people I came to talk to…and was turned away each time with the same story of the “holiday to evade protests and activists” which I assumed by the end of the day had to have been declared in some secret midnight session.
I left them all notes. On their own stationary…that way they would know I had been there in person. I told them how disappointed I was to have come all that way and not had the opportunity to tell them to their faces all the ways in which I believe they have absolutely dropped the ball with the American governmental process. It’s a sad joke, the state of things in our government right now, in case you already DIDN’T KNOW.
My note at Harry Reid’s office was probably the most scathing. It went something like, “The rumors had it that you had a spine…I guess that’s the way of rumors.” I signed them all and I expect responses…I’m not an anonymous loonie who just goes around writing cryptic messages for Congressmen to baffle themselves over for hours. My message was clear. The people do not want this war. It’s time to leave the Middle East. It’s time to hold Bush and Cheney accountable, and on that one everyone needs to stop passing the buck. It’s time to do your jobs, Congress…any day now would be fine. The people demand representation and are NOT GETTING IT.
I trekked the other way down Pennsylvania Avenue to what I discovered to be the “backside” (The South Side) of the White House. On my way I found a new way to circumvent the poster ban…I strapped my poster advertising the march on 9/15 to the back of my pack. Most folks stopped to see what it said…I hope some of the same showed up due to my getting the word out the only way I could. Turns out there were also thousands of handbills passed out by dedicated members of the ANSWER coalition and the Iraq Vets Against The War…everybody does what they can, I guess.
Anyhow, the poster advertising the march comes into play on the south side of the White House…I took off my pack and sat down cross-legged to hang out and smoke a cigarette right front and center where everyone congregates to take pictures and enjoy the view of the South Lawn…I was immediately accosted by a Capital Police officer, whose name I didn’t write down unfortunately, who TOLD me to immediately produce identification. I told him I would be happy to give him my name, address, and date of birth…but that I knew of no law requiring me to either carry or produce state-issued identification upon the mere routine request of a law enforcement officer. He told me that in DC there WAS a law on the books that said I had to. I complied but as I handed him my ID I told him that if that were truly the case, the Founding Fathers would have even more to be ashamed of that evening as they rolled in their graves. I don’t think he liked that.
He came back over and tried to play a little verbal volleyball with me, and after a few minutes of getting his ass handed to him by a weirdo with a sign on his backpack he finally conceded that I had the right to sit there on my ass and smoke cigarettes as long as I so desired. I reported his attempt to enforce a statute I’d never heard of (and probably doesn’t exist) to the Captain of his White House detail during the Code Pink protest, a man who I came to admire for his seeming virtue and dedication to his job. He was also the most knowledgeable and intelligent of the DC cops I encountered, and conceded that I had a point about the guy hassling me for ID behind the White House without any probably cause or even suspicion, and that he would “look into that for me.” An AP reporter snapped a shot of our conversation, which he might have interpreted to be a heated political debate, but the reality was that we were trying to talk over the airhorns and drums of the Code Pink protest happening immediately behind me.
The Code Pink ladies amuse and impress me equally. They have such a keen sense of humor and political irony, and such a way of expressing themselves publicly with confidence and solidarity of values. I was happy to meet many of these ladies who were invariably kind, considerate, and thoughtful to the extreme. I was proud to have been present to witness a far more humble act than my own when two 23-year old kids who walked 4,000 miles from San Francisco (walked, not hitchhiked) sat down on the sidewalk and were peacefully arrested in an act of civil disobedience to protest the war and protest for impeachment to be put back on the table.
After Code Pink vacated the sidewalk the DC police took down the police lines and reverted to the typical regulations regarding protests there, which include the stipulation that there be no static protest between the two light poles in the center of the sidewalk in front of the north side of the White House, the side most of us see in the movies with the lights and the fountain out front…anyhow, between the poles one must keep moving, and I thought it to be an odd and absurd regulation…so I protested it.
I walked in circles talking to the DC police, Secret Service, and closed circuit TV cameras until about 4:30 in the morning that first night. I had long and interesting conversations with the authorities, the passersby, and even a guy claiming to be a TV reporter from Virginia.
The conversations I had with the law enforcement officers were the most rewarding. I pointed out how ludicrous it was that I was walking in circles in front of the White House in the wee hours of the morning, and how equally ridiculous that our tax dollars were paying them in double capacity to make sure I kept moving to enforce the statute. Some were stoic and tried to ignore my rant, but I would hook them in with an impromptu game of hopscotch or even doing the Michael Jackson “moonwalk” at one point…I know he grinned on that one but I bet he’d never admit it to this day. I wasn’t surprised that with hours of helpful instruction, lessons in recent and ancient history, and kind reminders of the virtue of truth and integrity…many of these gentlemen conceded I was the sanest person they’d ever seen walk in circles in front of the White House until the wee hours of the morning.
I talked with a couple of old Jewish ladies who were vehemently pro-Bush (imagine that) and they both walked away in disgust after I managed to counter every single point they made. (It’s easy to defend peace. It’s hard to defend war.) Many more came up to me and shook my hand and walked with me as we discussed everything from health care to gun control…to the mysteries of 9/11 and the continuous proliferation of the tools of destruction unabated across the face of the planet for profit.
I eventually wore my feet down to nothing but pulsating, blistered stubs and had to call off my all-night vigil in favor of some much needed rest. I chose (by accident?) the church two blocks from the White House where I AM TOLD President Bush himself attends about once a month, with great fanfare and motorcades and advance teams in front of the procession sweeping the homeless from the area with neat and quiet ease.
The night in question was not a night for Bush to come to the garden to pray, apparently, and there were half a dozen homeless men and myself sharing the park benches out front. Those park benches are not meant for sleeping, by the way. They are about four foot long. My feet were on the ground and my pack was on my chest in my tight grasp as I nodded in and out of consciousness, aware of the stares from both the homeless “regulars” and the pedestrians of the early morning hours in DC.
I am a stranger in a strange land, and always have been. More to come.