Howdy fellow Heathens!! Long time no talk!
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to be part of history by attending the FIRST EVER Reason Rally in Washington DC, HOWEVER, several people that I love with all my heart WERE able to attend that phenomenal event!
And the rain, dissuaded NOONE!!
One heathen in particular, M.A.M member Laura, allowed me to live vicariously through her as she kept me updated via text message on the who’s who and what’s what in DC! How did I repay her, I interviewed her of course! At the request of Laura, her identity will remain private but please know her words are just as beautiful as she is!! So kick back and enjoy the interview. *Note, words in bold italics are mine!!
- Laura, what were your feelings when you CONFIRMED your reservation to attend the Reason Rally? I was so surprised as I had resigned myself to the bus not filling up- I had been checking that damned site several times a day- which is irrational behavior for a purported rational thinker. I had planned on going since the moment I’d learned of the Reason Rally the previous year, but the closer it got the less it looked that I would make it, so when that confirmation email arrived I was absolutely thrilled.
- The night before departing for the rally, were you able to sleep the night before? If not, what did you do instead? I had to sleep the night before because the next day was a work day, but I stayed up too late reading Reason Rally related stuff on the internet.
- Day of departure is finally here! Pretty soon, you’ll be on the way to our country’s capital, Washington D.C, what’s running through your mind? What are your expectations? I work in the financial services industry which is lousy with right-wing conservatives who flaunt their Christianity (I overhear the advisers nearby telling their clients to pray over situations regarding their money- sound financial advice, eh?! and every other phone call ending with a “God bless you“) so it was a high knowing that most people with whom I interacted that day would choke on their communion wafers if they knew where their humble servant was going the next day. I was listening for talk of the upcoming rally but of course the televisions playing in every office are turned to conservative financial news stations, and those stations were not going to report on our efforts. Mainly my thoughts were that as soon as the work day ended I would be getting ready to get to Ann Arbor (MI) and get on that bus!!
- After arriving in D.C, I know for a fact your adrenaline was pumping-it was palpable via text lol However for me, it’s not quite the same as actually being there. :’( I can’t begin to IMAGINE the atmosphere…how would you describe it? Well, first I have to tell you about the bus ride. The driver steps in after we all board and theatrically announces that he “does not know what our rally is all about”-bullshit!- may I say bullshit in your forum (hell yeah she can say bullshit in our forum lol)… I would hope so because we are all about eliminating it, right!! – but (and here he holds aloft- a leather- or probably pleather- bound book) and says “I’ve brought something to read because you see, I am a preacher!” He proceeded to pretend that there was something wrong with the bus and as a result we left an hour late. His way of ‘punishing’ the unbelievers… and he didn’t stop there. HOWEVER he could not dampen our joy and anticipation!! Of course since we departed from Ann Arbor the bus held many U of M students, and their youthful exuberance and geeky/techie/ silly chatter was both entertaining and rejuvenating. We arrived in D.C.- and we are late due to the driver’s efforts- but we are all so excited to be there. D.C. was in full spring bloom and it was beautiful when we arrived: flowering trees, daffodils, wisteria draped everywhere. There were so many people wearing atheist tee shirts and carrying signs and heading toward the mall. The signs were all so clever and fun-I just love how “our people” tend to have the best senses of humor! (so do I!!) There was a very large tent and all of our favorite atheist and freethought groups had tables manned by exuberant volunteers giving out all kinds of goodies. That tent was packed solid but everyone took their time: no pushing or unpleasantness. The overwhelming feeling of the day was love and tolerance. If I could bottle that vibe I’d be a gazillionaire- and of course I’d give some of my gazillions to our cause!! One of the parts of the rally that I really enjoyed was that you, Bree, and I were texting during it- that even though you weren’t there- you were (I had tears as we were texting back and forth!) The atmosphere was wonderful. Everyone greeted each other with great big grins: “isn’t this great? isn’t this fun? aren’t we lucky to be here?!”. After the rain started it seemed to bind us together even more: ” aren’t we lucky to be here in spite of this rain?” There were ponchos and rain gear of every type and many people came prepared with umbrellas which served as signs in addition to their intended purpose: my favorite was a large clear plastic one on which had been painted pansies (the flower which represents Freethinkers) and words such as “reason” “rational thought” “tolerance” and “intelligence”. Many times throughout the day I would just turn around and look at the crowd- you have probably heard by now that the official number was 26,000- my eyes tear up just remembering the sight. I know I may sound corny but when you spend your entire life thinking there is “something wrong with you” and then 5 decades in you realize that there is nothing wrong with you: you are an atheist- and then two years later you are surrounded by 26,000 others just like you- well, that is life changing, life affirming and just freaking overwhelming so hell yeah- I guess I will be corny about it! It was wonderful to meet up with fellow members of our local groups. We were represented by DAM, DASH, DGAP, MA, MAM and NOCF among others. The speakers and musicians were all terrific, and dedicated as well; as they all got as soaking wet as the attendees. I was impressed that many of the speakers and entertainers stayed throughout the rally to encourage each other and us as the rain continued to drench everyone.
- Who were you looking forward to seeing the most? Why? Did you get to see them? I was so pumped up by the anticipation of being in the presence of Richard Dawkins and of course he was warmly welcomed by the crowd and gave an inspiring speech. I will never forget the reception of Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps, or the absolute silence afforded him by the audience while he spoke. The crowd was absolutely, completely silent during his speech, and this was especially noticeable as many yards away the nasty Christian protesters on the outskirts of our rally ramped up their bloodthirsty screams, as if they would like to rush in and bludgeon him into silence. It is a chilling memory. One of my favorite speeches was that of Adam Savage (co-host of popular show, Mythbusters), the speaker who started me crying first! I had expected him to be funny, which he was; what surprised me was his sincerity and his eloquence. Jessica Ahlquist (student who sued her HS and won, the ‘School Prayer’ was removed as it violated constitutional rights) was so impressive: a strong, humble young woman wise beyond her years and deserving of the cheers (and the big check) she received. Sean Faircloth is always interesting and intense. The excitement ramped up when it was time for Tim Minchin: it was twice as fun because at that point all of the folks I was standing with were as nutty for Tim as I am… we kept turning to each other, smiling and saying “Tim F@#$ing Minchin!!!” Gotta love Tim, what’s not to love?! There was another comedian named Jamie Kilstein who was hilarious- and both he and Tim Minchin popped out to entertain a few times during the day. There were far more speakers and entertainers than I can list here without making your interview way too long. I am really looking forward to getting the Rally DVD to both relive the speeches, to see the ones I missed and to live it again with friends who couldn’t make the trip.
- What was the best part of the Rally? Sorry to be repetitive but the best part of the rally was the overwhelming atmosphere of love: that no matter where you turned, no matter where you walked you were greeted by smiling, loving faces. People were giving high-fives to strangers, hugging and laughing, laughing through tears, sharing umbrellas, offering spare ponchos; even being polite about waiting for the port-a-potties! The best part of the rally was all of my wonderful, loving, humorous, rational fellow attendees, hands down.
- Your least favorite part of the Rally? Why? Corny as it may sound, I cannot think of any part of the rally that I would change. Sure, if it had been a sunny day it would have been more pleasant but I think the rain served to bond us even more than we already were, and it served to show our level of commitment to our many detractors. Honestly, my least favorite part of the rally was that damned bus driver and I’ve written a letter to the Rally Bus company detailing how he sabotaged our trip both ways… he actually kept the air conditioning on the whole trip home knowing that we were all soaked to the bone! Don’t get me started on that bus driver!!
- What will you always remember about the Rally? The feeling of just being there among so many thousands of people who shared my thoughts, who had been on journeys like mine- many far more compelling than mine, of course.
- How does it feel to be part of history? Terrific! I really do feel that it was a historic day, and I hope that our movement continues to grow stronger and that it will be due in part to the fact that 26,000 people traveled to D.C. that day to attend the Reason Rally.
Thank you Laura for sharing your memories of the Reason Rally with the rest of us! How about you, reader?? Do you have any moments from the Reason Rally you’d like to share? What are they?