Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

This is what democracy looks like

Wick's World

 


I easily could have stayed home Saturday. The Minnesota Golden Gophers mens basketball team had a big game against their rival, the Wisconsin Badgers. I could have watched the thrilling game live. It would have even been warm inside the Barn.

I chose to stand in the cold and damp listening to the chant, “Let’s move forward!” I had no idea the size of the Women’s March had morphed from a predicted 20,000 supporters to almost 100,000 women and men, children and teenagers, babies in mother’s arms and little kids in strollers. There were people of all races and ages. The commonality was not a hatred for the new president. This was not an anti-Trump rally. From beginning to end, it was quite obvious this was a worldwide statement of support for human rights for women.

To clarify, I did not choose to go to the march on Saturday. I chose to go the moment I caught wind such an event would even take place. I chose to go even before I had spoken to my wife, even if I was the only man there, which I wasn’t.

This wasn’t my first time to the dance. I’ve been demonstrating for half a century. I was an environmentalist at the first Earth Day in New York City. In 1972, I was surrounded by every law enforcement agent in Florida when Miami Beach was cordoned off. An air and ground assault was mounted against us demonstrators at the Republican National Convention. Our target was Richard Nixon. Their target was anyone caught in the web of our feeble attempt to practice the right to free speech. Many of the protests in the 1960s and 1970s were anything but peaceful. As helicopters whirred overhead, protesters were getting assaulted with rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas. In the middle of the chaotic fog, I heard one of the most poignant quotes of the anti-war years, a quote that resonates with me to this day. I was standing beside a man who was facing a large network camera and holding a microphone in his hand.

He led the broadcast with, “This man hasn’t cried in a long time, but I’m crying here today.”

Of course he was referring to the tears streaming down his cheeks caused by the clouds of toxic chemicals sprayed on the crowd. Personally, I cried just a little bit on the inside as I watched democracy being stolen out from under the feet of our nation. As a country, we survived Nixon and became better for it. I pray we will survive Trump and become better for it.

Ironically, Saturday’s march was very peaceful, except for one homophobic sign-carrying man in the crowd who just couldn’t stand what was happening. He sprayed chemical irritants on many people, including pepper spray directly in the faces of many women. His protest was called by law enforcement exactly what it was, aggravated assault. This is still a democracy and he will get his day in court.

I think it is because people marched for something last Saturday, equality for women, as opposed to marching against something, that made this so peaceful and successful. Anti-marches "against" something never seem to work as well as demonstrations "for" something positive.

The signage at this demonstration was as unique as the crowd.

“I don’t want to live in the '50s,” said one sign held by a teenager.

“Now you’ve ticked off Grandma,” by a grandmother and, “I can’t believe I still have to do this crap”.

One of the many humorous signs in the crowd held a double meaning. An adolescent boy sat on a knoll near the capitol. His sign read, “I’m here for the girls.”

The best chant of the day spoke volumes about what people around the world declared last Saturday, “This is what democracy looks like.”

Personally, I will be standing up for my right to free speech. Specifically, I will be defending the freedom of the press until the ink in my pen runs dry. I did not go off and serve my country only to come home and be a good corporate soldier. I served to defend the freedoms for which this country has stood through 44 presidents.

My uniform is gone and my hair may be gone, but my will to defend that which is right will never die. My hero last Saturday was the old guy who struggled with his walker and still made it to the steps of our State Capitol in order to stand up for women. To me, that is a real man.

 

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