I attended the thirty-eighth March for Life yesterday in D.C. I do not even know how many marches that makes for me . . . a lot. The weather overall cooperated with us, as it was cold but sunny and not too windy. I always look forward to the march and to the influx of the salt of the earth into the spiritually fetid federal swampland. If only the city were always peopled so; perhaps, our politics would be different. A friend of mine who is rather politically connected thinks that the cultural atmosphere of the city pollutes the folks who come here to work for the common good. I have told him repeatedly that the federal government could be relocated to the middle of God fear’n Kentucky and that, pretty soon, the town would not be very pious. For bureaucratic power in our democratic republic attracts certain types of people, and the people make the city, not the reverse.
Anyway, I thought that the day went by well. I continue to be disappointed by the rally’s drift further east, which shortens the march. I liked it much better when the rally began at the Ellipse or near the Washington Monument. Given the very young age of the crowd and the necessarily slow pace of the march, we can do seventeen blocks! Besides, Constitution Avenue is a glorious sight when you can see seventeen blocks of marchers with all their colors, flags, and signs. This year, the rally began at Fourth Street! That is ridiculously close, and it means that groups bottleneck at the beginning and stand around for far too long. The rally has started to overtake the march proper as the focus of the day. Perhaps, so many folks want the soap box and time must be allotted, or maybe the organizers need to push the start of the march further back to allow for the arrival of the hordes of teenagers who attend the morning youth masses at the Verizon Center and at the D.C. Armory. I support the masses and an interesting rally, but bring back the longer march!
Moreover, march organizer Nellie Gray needs to hand over the reins. She has done much for the prolife movement in America, but she, like Dick Clark, must acknowledge the procession of time. I think that she should still attend and address the crowd, but her voice is not strong enough anymore to m.c. the event. Even with a microphone and loud speakers, it is often difficult to hear and to understand her. The eighty-five year old could still ride the march route in front of everyone.
I saw no opposition this year. I have not noticed a sizeable opposition in twenty years, but at least two years ago I found a few transgressively attired feminists and homosexuals in front of the Supreme Court with N.O.W. signs. I encountered none this year. The Left has grown weary. Destroying a civilization must be taxing work.
I did not see any eye catching groups or signs—beyond the normal assortment of characters that show up every year. A common new sign was, “Term limits on Congress, not on babies.” They were all handmade signs, but I saw them everywhere. How do these sign memes spread? The internet? Movement propaganda clichés? I have no idea.
I was happy to see so many folks from the heartland in general and from Ohio in particular. My people represent themselves well in the march, and I have noticed such since I was a kid. Yet, even as lost and degraded a place as New Jersey sent thousands of the faithful. As I waited at the march’s initial bottleneck, I had a delightful conversation with a charming elderly Roman Catholic lady from New Jersey who was marching with the Diocese of Trenton. She told me that she was originally from Brooklyn but that she had moved to the Garden State sixteen years ago. She showed off her tea party button and recounted how the tea partiers are really nice people. I found it amusing that she felt compelled to defend the tea party in the middle of two hundred thousand prolife marchers, but she has habituated to living amongst orcs. She was also very curious about some of the icons that members of the Orthodox group were carrying. Indeed, throughout the march, people repeatedly came up to talk to the group’s marchers. I have noticed that such curiosity has increased over the years. Minds are wandering ad orientem?
I also found it rather sweet when a young man walked up and asked us if we wanted some prayer cards with a depiction of the Virgin and Christ Child on them. The image is iconographic—The Helper in Childbirth, and the card was from some Franciscan friars in Connecticut. I think that the man was giving the cards to everyone at the march but then spotted the Orthodox group and had a swelling moment of ecumenical charity. He enthusiastically approached our group, knowing that at least we would appreciate the card. Little baby steps ut unum sint, eh?
After the Orthodox group dissipated following the moleben, I stood watching the flow of the march. After a minute or two, I spotted the young priest from the boys’ school where my brother teaches. What a coincidence—or providence! I then spent some time with my fellow Cincinnatians as I showed them the Library of Congress after the march. After escorting my kinsmen to the metro and after chatting with a few Elder High School chaperones that I met about “the Pit,” I left the good marchers to make their voyages home. The only other surprise was that my mother told me on the phone that she spotted me on EWTN’s coverage of the march. What are the odds?