One aspect of Washington D.C. culture that has peaked my interest during my time here is the revolutionary spirit of those who journey to the district. As the nation’s capital, DC is the site where many from across the country and globe pilgrimage as a form of political expression in the hope of spurring politicians to enact policy change for the betterment of United States citizens. Everywhere you go the atmosphere is alive with protest and a desire for the implementation of change. I can recall the swarm of women and men who flooded the Washington Mall in mass for the Women’s March. I was struck by the way they clutched their rally posters and pick signs with their eyes alight with frustration, defiance, and determination. They were going to be heard whether anyone liked it or not and they demanded that their government took notice of them. It was powerful. Not too long after, I found myself in a Metro car with a host of pro-lifers fresh off of their march. They were giddy after having partaken in their form of political expression. I recall the sense of good and accomplishment in their eyes and voice. Others looked at them askance due to their beliefs but they shrugged off the sideways glanced for they believed that what they stood for was the only good and moral position and DC was the venue at which they could express those beliefs. Time will only tell what policy enactment is influenced by the defiance of my contemporaries but I am overjoyed at the opportunity to witness moments that have the potential to be memorialized in history.
An instance of protest that I found particularly impactful was a demonstration done by the Parkland student survivors as part of March for Our Lives. As you can see in the picture above, they positioned these giant letters to spell “YOUR COMPLACENCY KILLS US” with the final two words in red. Behind the text there were numerous pickets in the shape of the symbols for all the religions of the book.
A cross for Christianity, the star of David for Judaism, and a star within a crescent moon to represent Islam. These pickets were positioned in the shape of a heart and within the heart there was a bullseye made of white and red roses. At the center of the bullseye rested a red mannequin wearing a hoodie that wore the words “Am I next?” and on the face of the mannequin was a mirror. The mannequin was seated at a school desk and on the desk was an American flag, a stuffed animal, and an iPad. The iPad played a series of images of young people whose lives had been lost to senseless gun violence.
(I did not take this picture in particular but I included it to depict what I described above)
This art installation was incredibly moving, especially as a young person, because there have been multiple instances in which there was a fear of gun violence at an institution I have attended and I and my peers wondered the same horrible thought “Am I next?” “What will happen to me?” Is this really just a false scare like the time before or is this really what I fear it most to be?.” There have been scares in both high school and at Rollins and living in a touristy area such as Orlando I often find myself expressing concern for my safety and a feeling of apprehension in public settings. We as a people try not to let these fears rule our lives but it is definitely difficult because the fear is there and it is real. Young people should not have to fear for their lives simply from going to school. And even if the threat proves not to be there, that fear has the terrible power of weakening the student and instilling within them a sense of anxiousness and insecurity—while they should really be feeling freedom and endless possibility.
In the picture below, the purpose of the art installment is laid out and it is to decry the inaction seen in response to the countless massacres that have occurred on American soil, especially the ones that have impacted children who have no political voice. I recall the time before I could vote and the frustration I felt that people who had no comprehension of my experiences were making decisions for me. It is especially pertinent now because these acts of violence keep happening and at an increasingly alarming rate and scale.
It is for all these reasons that there is an undeniable power in these young people making the pilgrimage to Washington DC to set up this art installation right behind the Capitol building, in full view of all those who possess the amazing power of being able to enact change. This impactful moment in history could not have happened anywhere else and still maintained the same meaning. DC is a powerful and influential place in that it is the meeting point of the American people with their desires for change and the individuals who actually have the power to enact it.