In two interesting political days not quite a week apart, MLK Day and the Women's March, you could watch Fort Bragg people rise like the first shoots of political springtime, smelling sweetly of serious commitment to shared ideals.
The Women’s March on Saturday was pushing back at the current federal administration, pushing back at its ominous opposition to save our planetary skin. The Women’s March came hard on the heels of Martin Luther King Day the previous Monday with its own implications for push-back. The Women’s March filled Fort Bragg’s Bainbridge Park almost to capacity, packing the park with a sunny, positive, confident liberal presence. There were toddlers and beautiful babies. There were earnest high school kids. There were bigwigs almost in disguise. Dan Gjerde, our fourth district supervisor, kept an extremely low profile, huddling with Doug Hammerstrom, the ousted councilman once the abject minion of now ousted City Manager, Linda Ruffing.
Gjerde knows Fort Bragg like few people do. He’s been paying close attention since he was a kid at Fort Bragg High School. Mayor Lindy Peters was there in trademark aviator shades. Neither Gjerde nor the Mayor spoke to the crowd. The Fort Bragg Democratic Club was the apparent event organizer. The signs were great. "Grab them by the midterms," "times up," " fired up," " act up," "paid family leave," and "no more nukes." The placards, although diverse, seemed strangely harmonic like a single thought. Bernie Sanders had left his mark on this crowd. The day was radiant. 2018 was in the wind.
It was a very civilized march. Everyone was nice. Colorful. Not a cop in sight. How rare in this nation at this time is that? Perhaps the Democratic Club had arranged for the speakers and subtly crafted the presentation of the event to be inclusive of the wide range of democratic politics. Maybe it just fell out that way, although women and equality were a big part of the fabric, resisting Trump, general common sense liberalism and environmentalism all had their clamoring advocates. It was more than anything a gathering of energy for the mid-term elections. Everybody was aware that something basic had changed in the nation, and it was this basic change that got us all walking up to Bainbridge park.
The Weinstein moment meant more to the nation than we can completely understand. It set something great in irresistible motion. The fundamental awfulness of exploitation, its mortally personal dimension, seems a violation of the very soul and the soul seems the very thing we could all agree is inherently worth defending. It is about the sanctity of the person and their right to be free.
Do I have that right?
It seems a solid foundation for the construction of a wiser society. It seems a great gift. It certainly was evident in the unspoken understanding of the whole crowd and in many signs, in the sensibility of the crowd and in their aspirations for expression. Saturday afternoon in Bainbridge park. Me-Too was the beating visible heart.
No one really knew what to say other than what everyone believed. As the speakers ran on, the crowd started to erode in big blocks. Most did not linger.
As we all wandered off, I wondered a little at the people who had not come to the march. There were at least a thousand people present, there may well have been more. But that leaves 6,000 or so who couldn't make it. Of course the vast majority of those who didn't come, don't make it anywhere they don't specifically want to go and missed the Women's March the same way that one misses the procession of the equinoxes, willingly but inadvertently.
But there are a great many people in Fort Bragg, perhaps a voting majority, who would not at any cost attend the Women's March on principle. On the surface they have the upper hand. A percentage of them support Trump and outright oppose the purposes and the principles and the politics of those who stood up at the Women's March. A much greater percentage, I divine, supports the substance of the ideals on display but resists the packaging of the gloriously flamboyant and feisty left wingers. The in your face element is comparatively sedate in Fort Bragg, but sufficient to generate a generally negative reaction.
As the march dissolved and people walked down various avenues of shadowed houses that stretched in all directions from the colorful life that had filled Bainbridge Park, the things that could unite us seemed to glimmer for a moment in the aftermath of the day’s testimonials.
The intolerance for the lack of respect for women is something that obliterates political distinctions. It seems very natural in Fort Bragg. Dignity and freedom is the same for all of us. It’s what they were saying at the demonstration in the park but it’s also what they are thinking in a thousand Fort Bragg homes whose occupants would never turn out for a “liberal” demonstration.
I really don't believe that the Women's Marches of yore had that element of potential contagion. Me-Too gave it to them. The gaudy, almost raunchy, populism one saw expressed in the Fort Bragg march — a living wage, equal pay, privacy protections and fair courts — might easily find local support in the communitarian DNA of the non-marchers as well. The at-home Fort Braggers have already come around to a rigorous scrutiny of their employees at City Hall. In Fort Bragg, populists and progressives united at least electorally could do anything.