Saturday, January 9, 2021

Inaugurations, Protests, and Rallies--Living in DC


Marilyn, Franny Kasen, David Kasen, Obama's First, 2009

When I was growing up in Moorestown New Jersey, Republicans were bankers and businessmen. They lived in the fancy old colonial houses with sweeping driveways of Moorestown or purchased in swanky new developments with custom homes. Their wives voted Republican as well, because women didn’t want to “cancel” their husband’s vote.


I, however, was raised in the home of a Democrat, my father who was a first generation college graduate and professional. His parents had not made it through high school, but knew enough to make sure three of their four children received an education. My mother, as was in vogue at the time, voted along with my father.


My first interest in politics was the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential election in 1960. My neighborhood friends, the Greenvale Raiders, held their own election. Five out of six of us were Kennedy fans, and only one held out for Nixon. He posted a Nixon sign in his bedroom window, and surely we harassed him as 8-10 year old kids can do. It is possible he remained a Republican going forward.


High School literary magazine cover by Perry Barton, 1969


Fast-forward until the years of the Vietnam War—started in the early ‘60s, but intensified under Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon. I became political at that time, being against the war, the draft, and how it was affecting my generation. In my homeroom class, there were young men who intentionally flunked their classes in order to stay in high school for a few years to avoid the draft. They showed no interest in school, and often were stoned into oblivion. I remained a Democrat, but at that point in time neither party was particularly attractive.


In1971, eighteen year olds gained the right to vote just as I turned 19! I registered to vote in New Jersey and went with my mother to vote for city council members and US representatives. It was a big deal to do so. In 1972, I cast my vote for Senator George McGovern, who lost by a landslide to Richard Nixon. Nixon’s victory was nearly a complete sweep. At the time, people knew little about Nixon’s dark side. He’d brought pandas to the National Zoo, started peace talks with Vietnam, and passed environmental laws that stand today. When people learned about Watergate, the tide turned with Nixon resigning in 1974.


I was a graduate student in Texas at that time. Republicans in Texas were, then, the liberal party! Democrats wore 10-gallon hats and were the Good Ol’ Boys. I voted Republican for local elections, but cast my second Presidential vote for Jimmy Carter. Carter remains my most favorite President even though he didn’t have a particularly successful 4 year term. In the late 1970s, the Shah of Iran was a close ally of the US. I was in school with many rich Iranian students, who smoked and drank alcohol with abandon. In 1979, the Shah was ousted from his stronghold. Living now in the Washington DC area, I was surprised along with the whole town by the Shah’s sudden departure.


In 1980, gunmen took over the US embassy in Tehran Iran, holding all the embassy staff hostage. Jimmy Carter tried and failed to gain their release. And that ruined his chances for a second term. Reagan sailed to victory and within days the hostages were released. For me, Reagan was a disaster—bumbling, hard line on welfare and immigration, Iran-Contra deals, and not the academic of Carter’s ilk. That said, it was an awful afternoon when Reagan and staff were shot coming out of a local DC hotel, not far from the Geophysical Lab where I was washing glassware. It was another living in DC moment when something of major importance happened right near you.


Bush flying out of town, 2009

The first inauguration I attended was for George H. W. Bush in 1988. I was pregnant with my daughter Dana, but joined thousands of people standing on Pennsylvania Ave. watching the parade on a cold winter’s day. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, we took the whole family down for evening fireworks and the parade. It was a good celebration. Nothing compared to the events surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. Friends came in from all over the country and filled our house in Silver Spring. The day of the inauguration was one of the coldest of the year. We bundled up in blankets and hats and rode the bus downtown to get a good “spot” to watch—we were almost at the farthest end of the National Mall. What a time!


Obama's first--completely packed

For George W. Bush’s inauguration, the city was filled with Texans wearing 10-gallon white hats and women wearing mink coats. Our family headed to the Supreme Court where we listened to the Reverend Al Sharpton speak about the faulty election—an election decided by the Supreme Court. In hindsight, Bush Junior wasn’t an evil man—a bit dim for a President, but not a liar. History has treated him more kindly given the current President.


Watching government play out made me a patriotic person. I have always been proud to be an American. I am very cognizant of the freedoms I have. Over the years, I attended many demonstrations and protests on these famous DC streets. We protested at the White House during the Clinton years shouting “Don’t bomb Iraq!” There were rallies—the Hundred Mom March (2000) and the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (2010)—that I joined with great gusto. When the Million Moms marched past Bush’s White House, soldiers with loaded assault rifles lined the streets to keep us Moms in our place.  But, living in DC was not always positive or easy. We endured street closures, bikers in Rolling Thunder Parades, and pro-life protesters.


Mom Flo Fogel and me, Rally for Sanity and/or Fear, 2010



Washington DC was a tense place to live after 9/11 in 2001. I was cooking lasagna for the Carnegie Lunch Club that day, listening to the news then watching in horror as military fighter jets took over the DC skies. I had to rush to pick up my kids at school and shelter in place. Traffic was a mess, phones were overloaded. It was chaos. Then came the Snipers in 2002 and the Anthrax attacks (2001), which made day-to-day living even more stressful.


All of this notwithstanding, DC was an exciting place to live. Our friends and neighbors worked at the State Department, CIA, NSA, NSF, Dept. of Energy, the Congressional Budget Office, NIH, the Army, Navy---you name it. They were smart, engaged professionals. When incoming politicians talked down about bloated government, I found them insulting. As Chris and I left for California, I was sad to leave rousing political scene in the DC area.


I remain today a staunch Democrat and a patriot. I don't know anymore what being a Republican stands for, but some folks are a far cry from the dignified men and their compliant wives from the 1960s. Seeing the storming of the Capitol this week brought back the flood of memories about times when politics was complicated or unpleasant, but never like this. Inauguration 2021 will be a shadow of the former pomp and circumstance. I hope it will be peaceful but I’m thinking it might not be.


DC people have the stamina to get through this, and those people who devote their lives to serving the government—and all of us—deserve our respect. Looking forward to getting through this.




Rounding Third Base and Heading Home

Cards from Franny and Flowers the Rumbles   My daughter Dana is marrying George Goryan on June 25 at our home in Mariposa...