Report of the Bus Captain

This is a report of the bus captain in Pittsburgh Bus # 4, 
	in the Cherry Blossom Festival and Stop the Violence 
		Against Women bus tour:
Another rally in Washington.  Some people ask, “Did it make any difference?”
	This is what I saw, and heard, and learned.

There were thirty three people on this bus bound for Washington, D.C.
Nothing remarkable happened when we boarded at 4 a.m. 
Meticulously, I counted the passengers after every time the bus stopped.
	That's why a captain is appointed for each bus: to make certain 
			that no one is left behind at a rest stop.

The convoy of buses on the Turnpike was the usual line of lights.
Phyllis Wetherby's face was unchanged.
	She has been organizing buses for NOW since I don't remember when.  
 		since before she retired from U.S. Steel (before it became USX)
The Post House in Breezewood hadn't changed much.
I'm glad to report that the hills and long valleys going into Maryland
	also have not changed.
"This is a beautiful country," as John Brown remarked long ago.

Many of the buttons are the same.
There are some new T-shirts.  One sported women cavorting
around a flag with the caption 
“.. and to the republic for witches' dance.."
The chants always seem the same.
	I wish we did more singing.

The signs and the slogans have changed slowly.
Our concerns are now even closer than Cuba.
	Viet Nam is in our children's history books.
Slogans for civil rights, however, are still current.
	Our dreams are still deferred.
Abortion Rights we won, but the struggle continues.
The Equal Rights Amendment we lost, but the struggle continues.

Union locals at the rally have their own signs
	And recycled Solidarity Day banners.
Union signs were rare in the Sixties, 
	especially official ones, professionally printed.
Now unions see that they are threatened, and not by kids with long hair.
The Coalition of Labor Union Woman is an important addition.
	You could say that the trade union movement is no longer CLUWless.
The lesbian and gay communities used to be invisible, even to us.
	Now they bring new signs, new demands, and new constituencies.
One organization has multi-purpose signs that proclaim,
	"Hadassah is proud to be here."
One sign tells us: "We are the leaders
	we've been waiting for."

Most of the demonstrators today are as young as ever.
I myself am older.  For a major march.
	I rely on neither overextended public fountains
		nor overpriced vendors.  I bring a canteen.
I know that no quick solution will be enough
	for the mending of our shattered community, for Tikkun Olam.
Now I plant seeds, together with young friends and strangers. 
	As I dig and plant and water, I often know
		that I myself "will never see
			red fruit hanging from the tree." 

So I feel a loss of immediacy in this demonstration,
	a change, subtle but profound, and not just in me.
Once we marched for withdrawal of our troops from Viet Nam,
Our demand was simple: "Bring them home!"
	We expected success, and quickly.  
Once we thought that civil rights could be won
	With just a few big demonstrations and a few new laws.
Once the ERA had a deadline imposed by Congress - 
	we almost made it.
Today we still demand justice now,
	freedom now, peace now.
But we know our struggle stretches
	beyond our own lives,
		forward beyond our sight, forward beyond our imagination,
and also back into the past
	into the deeps of time. remembered only
		by the stars above and by our songs.

"Stop the Violence Against Women":
	the rally slogan in the spring of 1995.
The Clothesline Project fills the middle of the Mall, clotheslines on loan
	from cities and suburbs and small towns around the country.  
The clotheslines are hung with shirts, each from a victim,
	of rape, incest, bigotry, domestic abuse, murder.
		There are little shirts, children's shirts.
The shirts are bright and grim with decorations, slogans,
	messages from the owner or her surviving kin,
		re-affirmations of hope and of vengefulness, brief histories.
Many shirts bear a name. They remind us:
	"Unto every person there is a name." 
Each name is a word
	for a spell of summoning.
The Clothesline is heavy with this power, 
	potent, like the Quilt and the Wall.

The clotheslines tie together the victims, and display
	the interminable sameness among all the variations of violence 
		which our society neatly categorizes
as if there were a difference 
	between beating up a woman because she is a lesbian
		and raping a woman because she is 'your' wife
We witness violence.
	We learn how power can employ violence.
Our rallying cry is new, our insights are new.
	But violence against women, violence itself, is old.  

We spoke of the attacks on abortion rights,
	yet another variation on violence.
The murders at the clinics are new.
	But there is nothing new about regulations and repression
		for women who would control their own bodies.

Speeches and slogans also addressed economic violence.
Signs decry the 'war on the poor'.  
One speaker asked whether "Women and children first" had a new meaning.
The targets are plain: school lunches, medical care, Section 8 housing,
	public housing, public transportation, and, in the bull's-eye, AFDC -
		Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
The broad sweep of these attacks is new.
	Their remorseless speed is startling.
But poverty is not new, poverty and women, poverty and children.

Not even the high school students at this rally hold any illusion
	that one victory in Congress or one election victory
		would be enough to bring us justice, would free us
			to go home, to relax, and just cultivate our gardens.

	we do not focus on any short-term goal.
We lack a demand more specific 
	than "Stop the Violence Against Woman".
We know that violence has no immediate solution, 
	especially at this level where economic violence, political violence, 
		and physical violence are seen as one sickness.

In the Sixties we had peace walks:
	San Francisco to New York, Quebec-Washington-Guantanamo.
Measured in miles, the distances were great.  But the objectives
	seemed nearer and clearer than ours do today.
Now we have intransigent problems, not just intransigent governments.
Now we know that the responsibility of finding solutions
	does not rest with those in authority, with experts, 
		or even with our own leaders, to bring back  
			from the mountain top or from the national conference.
Finding solutions is our work,
	is "the work that we must do,"
		our work, individually and collectively.
We must do more than make demands.
	We must make programs;
		We must remake structures.
For this Long March
	we make the map,
		we are the compass.

May our compassion be as inclusive as the meanness that we face.
May the depth and radicalism of our love match the depths of hate.

Phyllis Wetherby titled this trip:
	"Cherry Blossom Festival and Stop the Violence Against Women Bus Tour".
		That was to give us special tour bus parking privileges.
Now our bus will return to Pittsburgh.  We are all
	in need of Spring, in hope of Spring, bearing Spring.
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