Well, now I'm hoofing it back toward the rally that precedes the March. I've been to the March several times over the years, and one lesson I have learned is, avoid the rally! Or, at least, stay to the periphery.
I love the folks who put this together, overall their hearts are right, but the rally is such a weak spot. For one, I wouldn't let a single politician say word one. The organizers let various pols show up, or phone it in (the President); but you know what? Talk is cheap, and in Washington, talk-inflation makes it virtually worthless. You politicians want us to think you're prolife? Do something. Don't make us stand either on a miniature glacier (some years) or in a soup of mud while you echo one another in pledging undying loyalty to the cause. *Yawn*
Beyond the politicians, I wish the organizers would give more thought to who else gets up there. I didn't hear the name, but some yo-yo got up there and bellowed something about, "we want a holy land, not Homoland!" Well, that's clever but stupid.
First: it's mean. We don't need to call anyone names. If we have something to say about homosexuality, then just say it.
Second: why are we talking about homosexuality at a prolife march? Here's where a lot of my conservative friends, well intentioned, make a mistake. Instead of focus, they insist on a kind of comprehensive agenda. So a prolife rally also has to be a rally against homosexuality, and--what else? Higher taxes? Confiscating guns? Big Labor? Let's really draw up a good list, so that we can winnow down a crowd of 100,000-plus to the few thousand true believers we are willing to stand with!
So, for example, folks will show up at the March for Life with signs saying, "Democrats for Life" and "Gays for Life." What's the problem? The smart thing to do is to say, again and again: "We are people from all walks of life, all political parties, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist--if we talked politics or religion, we'd have a terrible fight on our hands; but we agree on one thing, and that's why we're here: to stop abortion!" Whatever you or I think about homosexual behavior, I am glad to have "Gays for Life" present. I think they sometimes get snarky comments, but in the main, I hope they're treated decently. Why not?
After all, there's little question that the March for Life is dominated by Catholics. Judging by appearances, you might think we represent 80-90% of the crowd, but that may be because we do a better job being visible--our Protestant brothers and sisters don't do so well, seems to me, on the outward regalia as we do. Now, I suppose, we could just take it over -- and shove Mary and saints and Eucharistic adoration and the Rosary down the throats of our separated brethren. Ah, that'll show 'em! (As it is, I do wonder if any Protestants attending the march do feel overwhelmed; for example, there's no way you can avoid the Rosary on the march--it gets prayed from front to back. I led the Lehman High School group in all 20 decades, which got us from the rally to the steps of the Supreme Court.)
So--message to the planners: maybe you could consider a different approach to the rally. I can see why you might need to have something while we gather--but maybe just music?
Another question I'd have for the planners: why did you change the location for the rally, and the route of the march? As it has been 3 years since I was at the march, I hadn't realized this had changed, and I would have walked all the way to the former site, the Ellipse in back of the White House, but that I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in about 12 years, who got me going in the right way. The problem with the new location is that it seemed more cramped than before. If this was to make the march shorter, I don't know that it worked.
Well, anyway, it took awhile actually to start marching, which is to be expected. An ambulance had to come through the crowd! and remarkably, it did so without incident, even though there were people inches from the rear-view mirrors!
One of the curious facts of life of something like this is all who show up. I am sure the pro-aborts were there, but I never heard or saw them. Of course, various other folks show up to promote their particular causes: someone handed me literature about the "true" Catholic Church--a bunch who had oddly worded signs about "Vatican II soul exterminators"--their purpose was to stress their own view of the ancient principle, "outside the Church there is no salvation." (Short answer on this headache-inducing topic: the Church teaches that people who are outside formal membership in the Catholic Church can be saved, but if they are saved, they are, for various reasons, deemed to be part of the Church, implicitly, even if not--on earth--explicitly. There's a lot more to be said about it, but not here, not now.)
There were also folks who set up huge copies of extremely graphic photographs of aborted children. There is disagreement about this--I tend to think these images, most of the time, are counterproductive. Notice I included the terms, "tend" and "most of the time." Others reach different opinions. I will concede that there probably is a time and place when people should be confronted with the stark reality of abortion, but that time and place is not "all the time," and everyplace.
These good folks made another mistake many prolifers and others make--they used the swastika in their imagery. Of course, what they want is to indentify abortion with the Nazis-- a valid point. That being said, there are two mistakes here.
First, you run the risk of getting into an argument with people who might otherwise be with you, but who don't agree with that linkage. If you push it too hard, your result is alienation, not alliance. What's important is opposing abortion--not agreeing on the arguments for that goal. I'm not saying we can't make the point about abortion and euthanasia and way Nazis thought and acted--but don't overdo it.
Second--never, never, never, never use the image of the swastika! I don't care how insightful your point, or how clever you are depicting it. The swastika is so radioactive an image, the point you are making is lost--all people see is the swastika, or the Nazi banner. So when you're making your signs, the night before, and you think it would be clever to use the swastika--go ahead, make one, show it to your friends, everyone agrees how clever it was--then rip it up and don't use it.
Now, I should say a word to anyone who had never been to this march--or, for that matter, to any sort of demonstration like this.
For whatever reason, I never had any qualms about this sort of thing. Could be because, when I was a boy--I think the very year Roe v. Wade was handed down--my parents took us to a demonstration in Cincinnati. My upbringing imbued me with a very strong sense that, this both our right as Americans, and our duty as moral people, to demonstrate and to speak out.
But I think some folks have the sense that going to a demonstration is extreme, or perhaps on the edge of what is appropriate, whether morally or civilly. Also, I realize some people have images of demonstrations that are ugly, confrontational, and violent.
I have been to many demonstrations and protests over the years, for various causes--I've never been in one where anyone was arrested (not that that, per se, would be bad; sometimes getting arrested is accepted as a helpful part of the demonstration--such as sitting at a lunch counter). I've never been at one where the police had any reason to worry or react.
As it is, this is one of the most peaceful, most orderly, most prayer demonstrations you will see. Even outside the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court, all you hear is either chants like "hey, hey, ho, ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!" or you hear prayers. Nothing ugly, nothing wrathful.
Is it kind of a circus? Of course! How could it not? But it a fun way.
Some people just really don't like big cities, and they don't like crowds. If so, this March is definitely not for you.
The sight of all those people is always inspiring; and it is very encouraging to see so many young people, from elementary school up. Of course, our Catholic school system deserves credit, and this is a major reason we show up in big numbers. I have to think the young people who come to this are themselves inspired to realize--they aren't alone, even though they may feel alone, in their prolife views.
One of the opportunities you have, after the March, is to visit your congressman or senators. I haven't done that for a few years for various reasons. It's a good thing to do, but please, don't let them snow you. They know where you stand, and they want you to think they are your best friend. Don't let some hot chocolate and nice talk fool you. It's action that counts--and not the easy, feel-good actions, but the hard work of really fighting the fight. Lots of congressmen will vote for largely meaningless bills such as non-binding resolutions, or extremely marginal bills like banning sex-selection (which sounds good, except I can't see how it would prevent even a single abortion--all it would do is say, you can kill the baby for any reason but this one). But how many will cosponsor, and seek roll-call votes, on the Life at Conception Act, which actually will overturn Roe v. Wade?
(Many do not realize that Roe did not declare abortion a constitutional right; rather, on the premise of a right of privacy, the Court said that it could not say if unborn children were persons under the 14th Amendment -- but that if they were, then the right to abortion would "collapse." I.e., in the absence of clarity on the personhood of the unborn, the claims of the woman--clearly a person--prevailed. So who can say unborn children are persons? The Roe Court said, not us. And it pointedly did not say the Constitution ruled it out. The Court left it an unanswered question. So who can answer the question?
(Well, the 14th Amendment says that Congress has authority to implement the Amendment. So the Life at Conception Act does what the Court said it cannot do: it declares unborn children persons under the 14th Amendment. On the terms of current abortion jurisprudence, this seems the most promising way legislatively to overturn Roe--at least until such time as we have enough justices, which we may never have.
(The Life at Conception Act has been introduced many times, drawing many cosponsors; and if the GOP leadership had not been phony about, well, all their claimed principles, then we'd have had a roll-call vote already. But it is still a useful bill to introduce, as a benchmark; and while House rules make a vote there very unlikely, it's very possible to do in the Senate. We'll see.)
Well, I reached the Supreme Court around 3 pm, so I started back to the hotel. I headed over to Union Station, which was mobbed, to get a bite to eat and wait for my train to the airport. Thankfully, I had the impulse to ask an attendant about using my ticket on an earlier train--and she pointed out my departure time was 5:25 am--I'd missed the train I'd booked! Not too long ago, you could simply step on the train, and either buy a ticket on board, or they'd accept a ticket for an earlier train. But not anymore. So at about 4:40 pm, I'm in a long line, wondering if they'll have a seat. They did, no problems.
As it happened, the group of seminarians and I were all on the same flight back. You may wonder why we flew; the answer is, it was cheaper. They got a fare of about $110, I, $160. They went up on Saturday, came back Monday, so renting the bus all that time isn't cheap. If I'd driven, the wear-and-tear on my car would be quite a lot more than that.
Except for the unpleasant security personnel, no problems coming back, and I was back home by 11 pm, whereupon I had a snack, surfed the 'net and had a nice night's sleep, and slept a little late today, and have given you this over-detailed report.
See you there next year?