As soon as I learned, on Thursday, March 18, that Michele Bachmann and Jon Voight had called for one final push on Capitol Hill during the waning hours of debate on the health care bill, I knew deep inside that I would be heading to Washington for the weekend. I spent a significant amount of time online late that night, comparing airfares. The cheapest one I would have been able to secure was around $380.00, as opposed to the standard price of around $200.00 less than that for a ticket procured under normal circumstances.
Since I knew I would have to drive, I decided to take my 6-year-old daughter, Carli, along to give her an opportunity to witness one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s history up close. We left home in Indiana around noon; with an all-too-brief overnight stay in Washington, PA, we were in Washington, DC by 9:00 AM and on Capitol Hill shortly after 11:00.
As Carli and I boarded the Metro, I began to wonder how many would show up. In fairly short order, Carli began to point other people out, just in our Metro car, who were carrying signs with messages along the lines of “Kill the Bill” and “Don’t Tread on Me.” We had boarded at East Falls Church, so I knew that if people were getting on even further away than we had (and East Falls Church is one of the more remote stops on the Orange Metro line), we would have a decent-sized crowd. It turned out that 30,000-50,000 people showed up, essentially with 48 hours notice.
I hadn’t slept much Thursday night and dozed restlessly Friday night, as well. Consequently, most of Saturday was coated with a film of adrenaline-laced fatigue for me. When I think back on the just-over-24-hour period we were in the nation’s capital, my mind darts through a collection of snapshots in time, rather than a continuous narrative…
I could hear the passion of the crowd well before I saw them. The anger and frustration at a bullying majority run amok were palpable. Only committed activists will assemble on a weekend like that to make their voices heard one more time. Carli wanted to jog down the mall, so I complied. As we got closer, the yellow flags and handmade signs began to be visible and I could see the West lawn of the Capitol rapidly populating with protesters.
One of the more poignant symbols of the anxiety that had drawn us all to Washington was a young couple we passed, close to the Reflecting Pool. The lady was clearly 6-7 months pregnant. It was a warm day (over 80 degrees) and even with Metro stops that are [somewhat] conveniently placed, the amount of walking required to move around in DC is noteworthy. Yet here they both were.
Soon after Carli and I melded into the crowd and well before the scheduled start time of 12:00 noon, Minnesota’s 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came onto the stage and energetically welcomed everyone to the final push against the bill. She left suddenly, stating they were calling her to vote and exited just a few feet from where Carli and I were positioned, literally running back into the Capitol to the House floor. I had the same impression of Michele Bachmann as I did the first time I saw Ann Coulter; they were both much smaller than I thought they would be, belying their dominant presence on the TV screen, but with every bit of the verve and feminine forcefulness. Like I said, these things stick in one’s mind when the eyes are bleary and the nerves are fogged with weariness…
At the stroke of noon, a young lady whose name slips my mind came to the stage to sing the National Anthem. Before the first line was completed, we were all participating in an unforgettable scene: thousands of Americans, committed to the preservation of freedom, in front of the U.S. Capitol, a symbol of the same, lifting our voices in reverence for “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Spine-tingling. Shortly after this (I have forgotten who was at the podium), the speaker of the moment began to quote those memorable lines from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Again, the whole crowd joined in, with gusto.
The lawn just kept filling up as more people streamed in. Tim Phillips, the President of Americans for Prosperity, paid homage to the 800 patriots who had traveled all the way from San Diego, California to make their voices heard! The Texans who were present raised the collective decibel level as only they can do when their state was mentioned. Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity’s North Carolina director, had led a large delegation that had departed their home state at 2:00 that morning. (I remember wondering how far away Dallas’ brother, Brad Woodhouse, might be at that moment; Brad is a spokesman for the Democrat National Committee.)
I saw South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson at the back of the stage before he was announced. Once he was ushered to the podium, I held Carli up to see this soft-spoken man, vilified by the Left for a moment of spontaneous clarity that embodies the First Amendment privileges we all still possess.
It felt a bit surreal to see Indiana’s own Mike Pence ascend the stage. I had just seen him 5 days ago at the Indiana State House. God bless this tireless Hoosier warrior…
Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, Tom Price from Georgia, Steve King from Iowa…
I kept updating Twitter and Facebook throughout the day. Encouraging messages poured in, thanking me for being there as a voice for so many others. I couldn’t help but wonder how full the Capitol lawn might be if everyone could have shown up who wanted to be there, but was simply unable to make the trip, for a variety of reasons.
One of the joys of Twitter has involved the opportunity to communicate with people from all vocations that I have admired for many years. I am a big fan of the lyrical honesty and Mom-and-apple-pie, American exceptionalism that characterizes so much of country music. I have loved the Oak Ridge Boys for a long time; their roots extend not only to the country/western field, but deep into the Gospel music realm, as well. Over the course of the last few months, their lead singer, Duane Allen and I have talked politics a number of times. Duane Tweeted me while I was on the Capitol lawn: “I WISH I WAS THERE WITH YOU, GLENN…YOU ARE A GREAT AMERICAN…KEEP PUSHING, KEEP BELIEVING…WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE, REAL CHANGE.” (Duane always Tweets in all caps.) It was a real emotional boost, as were all of the messages from those watching the action from many miles and states remote.
I glimpsed Jon Voight signing autographs a couple hundred feet from me. I might have tried to get one myself, but Carli was tiring and hungry and there were too many bodies between me and the famous actor. As he spoke later, a reel flickered through my mind: clips from “Mission Impossible”, “Holes”, “September Dawn”, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, “Rosewood”, not to mention the “National Treasure” films…Jon Voight is a Hollywood star with clout, an instantly recognizable face and a vitae that contains multiple cinematic hits. Yet he spoke unambiguously, with forcefulness about the “inner compulsion” that President Obama has towards socialism and unfettered ego fulfillment and our obligation to stop him from achieving his desired ends. Jon Voight has put his career on the line to speak out for the cause of liberty. This is Angelina Jolie’s father?
Around 12:30, Twitter began to buzz with the news that the Democrats had abandoned the dastardly “deem and pass” legislative maneuver they had been contemplating. Weirdly, even though I was standing within a few hundred feet of the location where it had just taken place, it was difficult to discern what this now portended for the government health care takeover effort. We now know the rest of THAT story…
Had I been alone, I would have, in spite of the hunger pangs, attempted to accompany my fellow protestors to the House offices to confront the Congressmen & women whose business quarters are housed within those walls. I saw the pictures throughout the afternoon of the long lines outside the Congressional buildings, but I had to take my little girl to lunch.
Carli and I made it back onto Capitol Hill around 7:30 Saturday night, in time to be part of a truly spontaneous series of events that were not as well-attended as the morning, but are just as indelibly seared in my mind…
A crowd of several thousand had coalesced around the House steps of the Capitol on the East side, which faces the Supreme Court building and the Library of Congress. No sound system was available, so Jack Kingston of Georgia and Jean Schmidt of Ohio were using a bullhorn to speak to the crowd. No one knew from minute to minute how it would all turn out; the crowd alternated from conversation to interchange with the politicians on the steps to the standard slogans of the day.
A candlelit prayer and Scripture vigil was held in front of the Supreme Court building. In the gathering dusk, one of the ladies pulled out a small New Testament and read from Psalm 31: “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me; come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.” King David’s plea to Jehovah, though penned three millennia in the past, retained a powerful resonance on that stretch of sidewalk, in the shadow of those pillared columns.
As Carli and I walked away from the Capitol that night, I halted, my precious little girl on my shoulders and gazed back at that distinctively American edifice, against the backdrop of the evening spring sky. There is no more beautiful sight on earth than this awe-inspiring vision, representing what America has meant to so many. As I contemplated the drama sure to unfold over the next 24 hours, Carli and I both softly murmured a prayer that God would see fit to continue to bestow His favor on this land we love.
We now are all too aware of how the weekend turned out. I don’t think many who assembled at Capitol Hill really expected otherwise. I know I embarked on the trip without any high hopes that those in positions of power would listen. One thought continued to repeatedly occur to me. These protests, tea parties, town hall meetings…call them what you will…that have seen record attendance now for months…For Constitutional patriots who love this country, this is our equivalent of rioting in the streets. We don’t spit on or hurl bodily substances at our opponents; we try to reason with them. We refuse to engage in ad hominem name calling; no, we state our grievances. We employ logic, rather than sophistry. (Yes, there are rare exceptions to the above and we disavow and repudiate them all.) On the one hand, what a contrast to the motley, peacenik hippie mobs of the 1960’s. But if those in the hallowed halls of power fail to realize the depth of our sincere antipathy to their efforts, what recourse remains? Not violence and not a call to arms. The next step in this journey inevitably ends with a march to the ballot box, educating our fellow Americans along the way, lest we be hurtled even further down the road to serfdom.