I just got back late last night from Washington, D.C. WSCADV received the Sheila Wellstone award for outstanding organization. A great honor. We got a nice plaque at a fascinating ceremony at the Hart Senate Office Building. I’ll tell you about it if you want to hear.

I had 4 whole hours the day after the ceremony to wander around before flying home. Walking New York Avenue toward the White House, I heard drumming. What’s going on? Let’s find out.

A protest!

Though House Majority Leader Eric Cantor calls these (and other) folks a “growing mob” bent on “pitting Americans against Americans,” that’s not what I saw.

This family is on vacation from Kansas City, Kansas. (She lost her job a few years ago―a super interesting story.) Who else was there? The raging grannies. Veterans in wheelchairs. Young people, old people. Oh, and me. I suppose in an odd way, it’s a compliment to call us a mob.

After folks left to reassemble at Lafayette Park, I walked over to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. If you’ve ever been to D.C., you know you have to walk really far to get anywhere. I had a lot of time to think. What the hell is our government for? Why are so many people suffering and unhappy?

The MLK memorial was not as inspirational as I needed. It’s a chilly place―I mean emotionally. Have you been there? What do you think?

I wandered on and happened upon the reflecting pool.

How ironic is that? This is a place I always associate with Dr. King and his most famous speech. And here it lies today. Is this reflecting the mood of the nation? It certainly was reflecting mine.

Next stop: the sculpture garden café across from the National Archive. Maybe I was just feeling crabby because I was hungry―so I ate lunch.  Sitting there brooding and staring at the Archive, I decided to make it my last stop. I wanted to lay my eyes on our founding documents―I mean THE Declaration of Independence, THE Constitution and THE Bill of Rights.

I lined up with all the school kids to get in and at last found inspiration. And had a good laugh too. I was bending over the glass case looking at the Declaration of Independence and the middle schooler standing next to me was asked by her teacher “Who were we declaring independence from?” The little girl paused and answered “France.” Ouch. I stood behind the teacher, made eye contact with the girl and mouthed “England.” She tried, but evidently couldn’t read lips.

Call me a geek, but I went to the gift shop and bought a copy of the Constitution and read it on the plane on the way home. There! Right there!  It says “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare (See? It actually says that!), and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If we can recommit ourselves to this―to our democracy―if we can reclaim it for ourselves, then we will free ourselves from the violence that surrounds us.

You really need to read the rest of the Constitution, then get out there and find a mob of your own.

I just got back from a two week vacation, turned hurricane tour to the East Coast. My parents have a house near the beach in Rhode Island where I grew up. Before now, I’ve never had to sandbag and board it up. It was frightening to evacuate inland and wait two very long days for the storm to pass.

Irene was a storm with a broad reach―requiring a hefty response. In my corner of the smallest state (.00000002% of the area this storm impacted*) I witnessed police going door to door issuing orders to leave, check points to protect evacuated towns, all hands on deck fire departments, every truck and crew preparing for the storm, and then undertaking the enormous clean up. Most roads were passable and power back on within the week. Impressive wouldn’t you say?

This, my friends, is infrastructure.

As noisy as the storm was, Washington, D.C. fell silent. For once, nobody was arguing about the need for big government because it was clear we needed it to prepare for and respond to this big problem.

Some of the deadliest hurricanes in America occurred before the convention of naming them. Sadly, like these storms, the disastrous number of victims of violence against women and children remain largely unnamed and unknown. The enormity of this problem requires an infrastructure that is up to the task.  There is absolutely no reason we can’t have it.

Meanwhile back at the coast, I felt palpable relief when I arrived home after the storm to find everything and everyone safe. I am so grateful to our government and to all the people who are loyal employees. God bless this mess.

* I made that up―but feel confident that it’s close.

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