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Citizens Show Up to Tell a Do-Nothing Government Enough Is Enough

Photo by Fibonacci Blue | CC BY 2.0


I have learned one thing. As Woody says, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.

– Marshall Brickman, co-screenwriter with Woody Allen of Annie Hall

WASHINGTON DC – The political situation in Washington and around the country is so rotten and demoralizing, so hopelessly polarized, that an outspoken group of high school kids who survived a shooting incident by an alienated lunatic with an AR15 have filled a leadership gap. For this reason, the March For Our Lives in Washington DC on March 24th was like a fresh ocean breeze in a smog event. We’re told 800,000 people took time off and made it to the capital city in political solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were gunned down in just over six minutes on February 14th beginning at 2:20 in the afternoon. In some 800 other cities around the country, similar outbreaks of support occurred on the 24th. And there hopefully will be more to come.

For my wife Lou Ann and I, deciding to go to DC was the first decision in the Woody Allen Rule, where 80 percent of life is just showing up. Then, the next step was getting out of bed on Saturday morning early enough to get our logistics together and to collect the two other people who wanted to go along on the trip. We drove south for a bit over two hours (there was little traffic and I have a lead foot) to the New Carrolton Metro station on Route 495. There, we had to figure out the ticket machines and what Metro stop we wanted to join the march, which it turned out was not really a “march” but a giant collection of humanity, packed-in along Pennsylvania Avenue and spreading outward along cross streets.

We had planned on getting off at the Gallery Place stop. Then, we figured the better stop would be Smithsonian. But when the train slowed for L’Enfant Plaza, everyone on the train got up and headed for the doors. What the hell, they must know what they’re doing. So like lemmings we followed the crowd. Lou Ann had made signs, blown up and mounted on foam core, and I had screwed and glued the boards to six-foot dowels. Pretty good mobile graphics.

We followed the crowd flow, past some National Guard troops with a desert-camouflaged humvee and a black federal SWAT team tank with its teammates all tricked out in the latest AR15s and SWAT fashion, until we ran into people. And there we stayed for the duration, hanging with a crowd of wonderful, engaged citizens you could only describe as a diverse collections of ordinary citizens who shared a collective sense of being fed up with one too many outrages and a government that seems deeply devoted to the Ozzie Myers Rule. Myers was a Philadelphia congressman caught in the ABSCAM corruption scandal. His famous remark on camera before being handed a briefcase of money was “In this town, money talks and bullshit walks.”

So I look at it as the Woody Allen Rule trumping the Ozzie Myers Rule. For me, it was a powerful feeling to be part of such a massive outpouring of political feeling and engagement. The story for me was the ordinary people who got it together to show up, many with young children in tow or sitting on their shoulders; some of the kids had clearly made the signs they were carrying themselves. Others seemed adult-made. The remarks by Parkland students one-after-another were played on a giant video screen, their words thundering through the air. All the while, we were catching up with old friends coincidentally encountered in the crowd.

One of the themes expressed in many different ways was Throw The Bums Out and replace them with reasonable, honorable, hard-working Americans willing and able to be constructive and at least moderately progressive in a time of grave emergency noted for what, in a January 2018 collection of essays, The Journal of Democracy calls “The Rise of Kleptocracy”, a phenomenon that works in synch with the much talked about rise of authoritarianism and the globalized features of money laundering, reputation laundering, “black PR” and self-serving, institutionalized dishonesty. The only way out of this is the expression of mass outrage, via the ballot box or in the street — or both. Currently, those running our government have done nothing about a festering cycle of absurd violence, and they show no inclination to ever do anything. With the ongoing corruption of the National Rifle Association virtually owning the United State Congress and now with the ascendancy of war hawk John Bolton to the diplomatic post of Secretary of State, things are getting pretty damn serious. So the really big question is: How will this youth movement affect the mid-term elections coming in November? Will the radical left and the moderated left get their acts together and find some common ground in time? Can the Woody Allen Rule continue throughout 2018 to trump the Ozzie Myers Rule?