They say, “You can’t come home again.” I think what they really mean, is that when you do come home, you’re not always the same person who left. This journey has meant far more than 1200 miles each way. Jeanne Morrissette said along the way, “This trip is aging me!” It’s aged me, too.
I never expected this journey to become a source of anything for anyone; just an opportunity to be part of something bigger, an opportunity to find the heartbeat of America right now, and to be a part of history in the making. The new found notoriety is a bit unnerving, and not a little lonely at times.
Yesterday, folks put together a Solidarity Rally in our state capitol, as did so many other people around the country. My small group of friends and I walked up to the capitol building and saw a small group of Tea Party protesters. There were no solidarity protesters.
My heart sank, but I kept walking. “They’re not going to show up.” Panic crept in and was colder than the blistering wind. The Press Herald and KJ wrote a vicious OpEd about me, effing up a pretty fundamental fact to their argument, by the way. There are some people who are vocal and the Governor had called me out in his radio address the night before.
After debating Sean Hannity, this is nothing. But, for a moment, I felt fear creep in. It’s one thing to stand up, but when you’re out there on the limb looking down, it’s always nice to know there’s a soft landing.
My friends asked, “Are we in the right place?” We kept walking. Past the Don’t Tread on Me flags, past the periodic cheers from the 20-25 people who had also braved the bitter cold to stand up for their beliefs.
We climbed the hill and rounded the corner of the capitol building toward the parking lot.
And there they were. They were the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. My heart skipped a beat and my eyes welled up.
“They came,” I whispered. “They really came.”
A couple hundred people were already there, proudly holding some of the best creativity one could hope for in hand-made signs. I took it all in, breathed in the moment, and thought, “I’m home.”
As we made our way through, I glanced around the crowd spotting the faces of old friends. Hugs were plentiful and the smiles could have warmed a thousand suns. “Welcome Home!” We were gone for a total of 4.5 days, but it felt like a lifetime.
People I didn’t know began coming up to me, “Are you Diane?” Constituents showed up, smiling brightly, beaming that their rep had made the trek.
Regardless of how strongly one feels about what they are doing, when it becomes controversial, there is always a fear. There is always a moment when you question yourself. Perhaps more people should feel that fear, question their motives. I think we need more self-aware politicos in the world; it might be a better place if we all just stopped to think for a second about what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.
But when I saw the number of people who had shown up on such, SUCH a bitter day, everything came together. And when I saw Hon. Anne Rand, my predecessor in the legislature, there at the rally with her poster, I knew everything was just as it should be. I knew I was on the right path. Some have criticized me, joked even, that I have followed my gut on this trip, followed my heart. I can’t explain why I had to go, but I knew this was a path I was intended to follow. I know not how far the path goes, or where it will lead, but I keep on it.
The one unresolved thing for me, the part I find saddest of all, is this division between the working class. Corporate billionaires are spending untold amounts of money to pit workers against workers for an ever shrinking piece of the pie. It is time to stop demonizing one another.
We all fear the effects of this economy – and we all feel the effects of this economy. It is time to stop throwing stones at one another and time instead to start building bridges together. We must work together to rebuild this economy, and we must do it together. Unless you’re part of the 2% making all the money, then we should all be figuring out how to make this country work, kick into overdrive and start creating the good-paying jobs that sustain the Middle Class.
For those who hate me for speaking my truth, I thank you for teaching me to be stronger.
For those who fear retribution for speaking your truth, speak it anyway.
My voice shook so hard yesterday before I spoke to the crowd, that the words literally would not come out. I didn’t even know what to say. But once they came, they would not stop. And so it is with truth; it has a funny way of finding the light.
Indeed, perhaps speaking our collective truths will set us all free.