My daughter learns about a different kind of democracy.
My daughter Anna’s first trip to the nation’s capital in 1995 on a family vacation resembled nothing of her second trip in 2005 during the inauguration of George W. Bush to the presidency.
That first trip, carefully engineered by me to instill the pride of the United States in my teenaged daughter, did create memories — memories of my husband and me crying as we walked down the slanted path next to the Vietnam Memorial, memories of awe as we stood at the feet of the statute of Abraham Lincoln and read the Gettysburg Address, and memories of soaking our sore feet at night after walking freely for miles in the best laid out capital in the world.
The second trip in 2005, loosely pulled together by a group of 18 to 30 year olds wishing to express their disgust with the continuing administration, also created memories — memories of pepper sprayed from large hoses causing vomiting and crying by its victims, memories of police with crazed, glazed eyes mindlessly wielding blows on the protesters, and memories of arrests of young men who set up temporary medic stations to help the victims.
She could not wait to return to the capital after her first visit. She could not wait to leave the capital the second time.
“When I first went to Washington, I had faith our government was there to protect us and uphold our rights,” Anna, now 23, said upon her return to Florida in 2005. “Now I realize it is just the opposite.”
Now instead of seeing Washington D.C. standing as a protector of citizens’ rights, she imagines herself holding up something to “protect my territory to prevent them from limiting my freedom of expression.”
Anna traveled with six others from St. Augustine to the nation’s capital in January. As a mother, I felt fear for her after reading the accounts of arrests of protesters during the conventions last summer prior to the election. As a mother, I also felt pride that my daughter wanted to stand up for her beliefs in a time when it is very dangerous to go against the status quo.
And so she went and came home to questions. Many asked her what she thought she proved by going.
A friend of mine lived in South America during political upheavals over the last several decades. This friend, Chiche Scaglia Davis, wrote to me after reading my blog account of Anna’s experience.
“I wanted to tell you how much this political situation begins to have similarities with those I remember so well from Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile,” my friend wrote. “ I was with my son in a demonstration when a violent act of aggression from the police happened.
“Good for your daughter and her ideas and shame for the people that had to ask why.”
“It’s horrible if these things happen and no one yells,” Anna said recently. “It’s fueled me more to improve the community I live in and to fight against what’s happening.”
A friend of hers recently entered a mall wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt. Security approached and gave him five minutes to depart the premises.
“That’s scary to me,” Anna said. “It is left up to us as individuals to protect ourselves.”
In fact it is one of the main reasons Anna chose to go to Washington. She made a promise to herself to make her voice heard if Bush became president again.
“There’s a war going on in this country against personal freedoms and rights as citizens,” Anna said after her return. “It’s a war on rights as human beings.”
Her education began when thousands of protesters marched in the streets toward the inauguration route. Anna remembers walking past cones placed to prevent vehicular traffic; she did not see any indication that pedestrians were not allowed. However, the group managed to make it all the way to the parade route and that is when the trouble began. She marched with the crowds shouting “Whose streets? Our streets.”
She saw protesters being sprayed and kicked and beaten.
“I saw police with big hoses spraying something,” Anna recalled. “I thought it was water which would have been enough because it was such a cold day, but it was a pepper spray.
“I was pressed against a building as I watched cops like robots with crazy looks using sticks and batons to hit people over and over again.”
As the chaos continued, Anna watched as people with backpacks began setting up impromptu medic stations to help the victims of the spray.
“The people who were getting hit with the spray began vomiting,” Anna said. “They had snot and tears running down their faces.”
The “medics” began distributing milk of magnesia and water to the victims.
According to Anna one of these “medics” was arrested for his humanitarian aid.
In a section not far from where Anna managed to avoid the spray and sticks, one of her fellow travelers to D.C. was being arrested after pulling away from a policeman. He was charged with assaulting a police officer. Anna’s friend, Steve, was not just handcuffed and arrested and hauled off to jail. First the arresting officer threw him down on the ground and kicked him over and over again in the back. Steve remained in jail for the next 24 hours and was released only after he signed a statement agreeing to be drug-tested once a week for the next year. All detainees were forced to sign the same paper, regardless of their alleged crimes, according to Steve.
Steve went to the emergency room after his release because he was in so much pain. Luckily his ribs were only bruised, not broken.
Then they drove straight home. None of them wanted to spend another night in our nation’s capital.
At first, I was heartbroken to learn of my daughter’s disenchantment with our country. I felt I had not done a good enough job showing her the beauty of democracy. But I now realize she has it just right. She really does understand the principals on which this country was formed.
Too many times those in power wish to squelch those who disagree. A subdued populace is much easier to control. I fear for our loss of individuality in this country as I read more about the watering down of our First Amendment rights through laws and regulations enacted by the government and private institutions.
Web Site: Patricia C. Behnke
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|Reviewed by David Taylor
|I remember getting pretty much the same treatment at a pro-gun militia rally back in the early nineties. The media celebrated it. I don't believe this is what the nation was founded on, its just what it's devolved to. They dangle the chimera of liberty and freedom out to blind the sheeples. The debate amongst the Republicrats and Demicans of power is whether we should have a kinder gentler police state or a plantation with a human face. There is ultimately only two forms of government; one that holds the people in utter contempt, and the one which lives in abject fear of the people.|
|Reviewed by Andrew Rafalski
|Dissenting can be hazardous to your health these days. This article should be a sidebar in future history books when they write about this presidency.|
|Reviewed by Kisha Cowan (Reader)
|I remember a time when I was "proud to be American". I learned the Star-Spangled Banner in elementary. I had a flag and a poster of a teddy bear with a shirt that read "born in the U.S.A" hanging on the wall. I danced to Bruce Springsteen "Born in the U.S.A" as if it were a religious ceremony. I proudly placed my hand over my heart as I said The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.I did all this even as the Iran Contra Scandal was going on, my parents were laid off and drugs infested my neighborhood (among other things). Racism was a powerful tool used against my family and yet, I held on to the ideals of democracy and the American Government. I clung to the idea that "we were free"... however now I feel different. I no longer see it as "us against them"... now its like "us against ourselves". During no other historical period in our country (my opinion) have we, as citizens been so abused (of rights) and lied to (Iraq)as we have during the Bush Administration. Although you cannot hold Bush responsible for everything that is going wrong... it is reasonable to state that with his past actions and present course, ranging from election of 2000, No WMD, American lives (civilans and soldiers)lost, innocent Iraqi civilans killed,the whole environment situation, lie upon impeachable lie (and just think Clinton was hated and then impeached in the House of Represntatives for lying about his personal sexual exploits, while Bush is reelected although he has lied about issues dealing with National Security) he continues to thrive in corruption. That cannot be dimissed. If Bush can do it and not have to answer for it, why shouldn't any other person in a position of authority? I am sad about the state that this country is in and I am even more sad that the average American refuse to investigate beyond what he/she is programed to believe (yes and the other side too).I still believe in such things as the "Bill of Rights" and the Great American Deomocracy that the forefathers once dreamt of, however there must be a great awakening in this country... and soon... or life will be like living in George Orwell's book "1984"... then again perhaps we are already there. Sorry my comment is so long... I found this article well-written and I completely understand the frustration that your daughter feels.|
|Reviewed by Koty Lapid
|I would like to congrat to you also about writing that article. I would like also to tell you that I am not a political person... but personal freedom is very important for me.
|Reviewed by Rosemarie Skaine
|Congratulations on your courage to write and post a very frightening side, limiting freedom, of this administration. R|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|powerful, frightening read|
|Reviewed by Judy Lloyd (Reader)
|Honestly this did not really reach the media but why make trouble for Bush that only leads to more problems. The problems lie with the officers that did this and not Bush. I mean if my house catches fire and some members of the fire department beat up a rival fire department who does the blame lie with. The person committing the crime in the first place. Peaceful protest is one thing yet time after time what the actions of a select group does makes the others look bad. Certainly baring one's butt for example says more about that person than the whole group. Yet is often the whole that must take the heat so to speak. Frankly I have seen too many so called peaceful demonstrations be anything but that and they were paid for their bruises. Saw it in 1967 through 1970. Saw the riots in Danville when dogs were used on people. That was to their shame. There are two sides of everything but we should never accept something blindly. You can have differences of political opinion and be friends but it time to place blame where it lies and never make excuses for the actions of those that did the kicking and stomping.|
|Reviewed by Monette Bebow-Reinhard (Reader)
|Amazing. The stories our government-controlled press doesn't want us to see. You've inspired me - I'm going to DC in a couple weeks and want to find a way to make trouble for Bush! Thanks for sharing a disturbing tale.
|Reviewed by Henry Stevens
|Hi Patricia, I've been waiting for this report of Anna's trip to the swearing in because I knew it would be an even handed report about good people who just happen to disagree. They end up treated violently, jailed, and a police record of drug testing. I can't believe this is happening, as it is a repeat of our ugly history that we've been through before. Why again?|