Rally round the flag, boys and girls
I want to write up my experience of yesterday's protest rally at Bradley International Airport, protesting Our Only President's Executive Order banning refugees from Serbia and blocking visitors from several other nations.
I'll begin, I guess, with Friday the 27th, when the Executive Order was signed. That was also International Holocaust Remembrance Day (y'all know this but somehow I feel like I am writing for posterity, or at least for my children's children, should they someday ask where were you?) and I saw the extremely powerful piece on Twitter where someone tweeted out a name from the manifest of the St. Louis and in which Nazi death camp they met their eventual death after being turned away in 1939. Every five minutes, a name went out, all day long. Every one of those people we, as a nation, could have saved, but chose not to. And it was on that day that Our Only President decided to stop taking in refugees.
Saturday, I spent a lovely day with my family, at home. Safely. Reading, on the internet, about the incredibly awful actions of our government, what the Lawfare Blog described as Malevolence Tempered by Incompetence. I have never been so shocked by our Government. And as that shock grew over the course of the day, so too did my pride in the America who came out to oppose the horror being perpetrated in our names—the attorneys, most of all, but the thousands and thousands of people who stood up to be counted and to agitate for change.
Now, I'm a comfortable middle-aged white guy, who likes perhaps more than anything in the world my quiet and comfortable life. I think the last time I went to a protest was in January of 1987, when Evan Mecham rescinded Martin Luther King Day for the State of Arizona. As inspiring as I find it when other people go and march, I don't like crowds and I don't like hassle. Without wanting to speak for her, My Best Reader feels much the same except her dislike of crowds and hassle is more intense than mine. (As a f'r'instance, there was no consideration whatsoever of her attending the Women's March the weekend before.) So when, on Sunday morning, I mentioned that there was a rally at Bradley in the afternoon, she made a face, and I agreed.
Our children were at Hebrew School all morning, which meant that my Best Reader and I had a quiet morning in which to do some household chores, cook sausages and read the internet. And after each of us had our bouts of quiet weeping or rageful quoting from our news sources, at some point my Best Reader looked at me and said: We have to go this afternoon, don't we? And I said: I guess we do.
And we did. We picked the kids up and drove out to Bradley, which (if y'all Gentle Readers are either the Nachgeborenen or Californians or whatnot) is pretty much half an hour from anywhere else. We explained to the kids what we were doing and why, and they seemed on board with it. When we arrived at the airport at 1:30, there was a line of cars to get in to the short-term parking garage that was unlike anything I had seen there on the busiest days—I mean, often I can just pull up and get the ticket, but sometimes there have been two or three or even five cars; yesterday there were perhaps thirty. It all went very smoothly, mind you, although I wouldn't have wanted to be trying to catch a plane in the afternoon. Still, the airport opened its overflow parking, and nearly everyone we saw walking over to the terminal had protest signs. We were all fairly cheerful and polite, and as we entered the terminal we were able to pick out a contingency meeting space for our family which would also be fine for sitting quietly if anyone found the noise and crowd overwhelming. And then we joined the throng.
I have no idea how many people were there. The Hartford Courant reports at least a thousand, but I don't know how they estimated. It was inside, and we were spread along the side of the large baggage-control space on either side of the central escalators, so there wasn't any one spot from which you could see (or hear) everyone. And, of course, there were people still arriving when we left. I would be surprised if there were fewer than a thousand people who were there at some point during the day, but it was big and noisy and crowded, far too much so for me to attempt to find the people I know who the internet told me were also there. It was certainly a lot of people, and the organizer (from CT-CAIR) appeared to be pleased and surprised by the turnout.
We stood behind the blue tensabarrier, holding our signs, as people with enormous cameras (still and video) walked back and forth. We chanted (Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! and Hey hey ho ho/The muslim ban has got to go) and every now and then somebody would come around and try to talk to the crowd, but it was impossible to hear them. More people arrived every few minutes and stood near the tensabarrier; every now and then someone would ask us to stay behind it and we would let them in and crowd a little more. We nodded and smiled at the people near us, but did not attempt to engage them in conversation; chanting and chatting are not really compatible. And, of course, we were all nice suburban Connecticut folk, so I don't think anyone really felt the need to engage with each other more than politeness required. Our family stayed right by the barrier for a quick exit, which we made, after an hour or so. The event was more than half over by its official advertised schedule at that point, although I have no idea how long it lasted.
It was all very pleasant and suburban and authorized. There was no challenge to it, particularly. Such security people as I saw appeared calm and relaxed. Our Lieutenant Governor appeared and assured us that the Governor supported our efforts. Evidently at some point the state's Attorney General came through (it is an airport, after all) and made an impromptu speech laying out his efforts to challenge the Executive Order in court. Someone handed out copies of the Constitution. If the rally had been at Bushnell Park by the state capitol, or in some other area with insufficient parking and ill-defined boundaries, and if it had been aimed at rather than aligned with our local authorities, it would have been more difficult to decide to go. I like to think we would have gone, but I can't deny that knowing the location was half-an-hour from anywhere and that the whole state was on our side made it all seem more likely to go smoothly and calmly.
My kids seemed to enjoy it: the chanting, the passion, the challenging of authority. I resented having to be there. I'm forty-seven years old. I don't want to go to protest marches. My daughter is fifteen—she should be appalled at things, and be outraged that we, her comfortable middle-aged middle-class parents, accept appalling things as that combination of inevitable and temporary that most appalling things really are. I did not want to be there. I do not want to hold a crude hand-written sign; I want there to be Young Persons who hold crude hand-written signs while I write thousand-word essays tut-tutting about short-sightedness and narrowness. I don't like standing on my feet for a long time; I like sitting in a comfortable chair, reading about protests on the internet. I don't like chanting; I like pretentious and prolix pontification.
Sometime Gentle Reader Benjamin Rosenbaum stormed on Twitter recently saying (among other things):
I don't want to hear you decry punching Nazis.— Benjamin Rosenbaum (@ben_rosenbaum) January 24, 2017
I don't want to hear you defend punching Nazis.
I just don't want there to BE any Nazis.(7)
That resentment pretty much matches how I feel about yesterday's protest. I don't feel proud of having gone; I didn't particularly enjoy it (nor the opposite); I just didn't want to have to go.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,