View from Inside the Orange Microscope Slide - part 2

View from Inside the Orange Microscope Slide - part 2

 This is part 2, my personal anecdotes and the highlights reel of my three weeks of protest. --TexBetsy from Relaxed Politics and The Head On Radio Network

Photoshopping by Texteen
On a personal level, most of the protesters were pleasant.  Everyone generally used their southern manners -- doors were held and pleasantries exchanged.  But the tension was palpable as busloads of the anti-choice protesters in blue clothing walked into a room. 

Perhaps the most disturbing experience was on the first Sunday of the protests, my first trip to the capitol for this particular issue in the legislature.  I was waiting in line to enter the gallery and a woman walked out with a tiny green-shirted infant in a stroller.  When she paused to adjust her diaper bag, I looked over and cooed “Oh how adorable!  How old?”  Her response floored me.  “He’s five days old, which means that six days ago YOU PEOPLE would have been just fine with letting me MURDER him.”  Then she sauntered away as my eyes bugged out, like in cartoons.  I asked the people around me, “Did that just happen?”  Someone conjectured that she had been invited into the gallery with her prop.  Only later did I recall that when my own son was five days old, he hadn’t had any vaccinations yet and was not allowed out of the house except to go to the doctor.  Even on an individual level, the health of the pre-born outweighs the health of a living, breathing, and adorable newborn. Which of us really values life?

The other really bizarre incident occurred on the day that hundreds waited in hours-long lines to sign up to give testimony to the senate. I heard a woman in a blue dress ask in Spanish if anyone could interpret for her. In the interest of bipartisan camaraderie, I agreed, then realized that I couldn't stand the whole morning, so I looked for her to offer my twitter handle if she wanted to contact me when she got to the front of the line. I found her a few minutes later, speaking English as well as I do.
Over the course of the three weeks I made new friends and reconnected with old ones as I watched my state house become a police state, with more and more DPS troopers materialize every ten minutes. Our access to electricity and wifi became intermittent and unpredictable, even as the guidelines about where we could sit and stand grew. The fact that, by the final night, we could carry permitted handguns into the gallery but had tampons and medication confiscated is more of a Texas feature than a bug.

One of my new friends stayed in the same hotel as many of the troopers from East Texas. She befriended them over breakfasts and was told that the troublemakers who got arrested Friday night were actually hired to make trouble while wearing orange shirts. I believe her, but have not heard this elsewhere.
On a side note, I am also a disability rights advocate and an education funding activist, I am horrified at the myriad ways that the capitol and the legislative rules themselves discriminate against the mobility-impaired. I had occasion to advise two other women on ramp locations, drop-off points and a secret elevator on the supreme court side of the annex, but that sort of thing shouldn't be left to twitter and happenstance. But that's an entirely different post.

In no particular order, other highlights included:
  • Meeting some of my new favorite legislators, including Senfronia Thompson and Jessica Farrar. Farrar was kind enough to allow large groups of us to accept pizzas and baked goods, and watch the proceedings from her office.
  • Going onto the senate floor the last day as part of a tour group, then staying behind to take pictures of Senator Wendy Davis's desk. I even asked a photographer to snap a pic of me near her desk, and was trying to leave her a thank-you card when the troopers and bomb-sniffing-dogs came to clear the chamber.
  • Seeing two hours of Davis's filibuster from the gallery, then being part of the group that stormed the rotunda with screams after her third strike.
  • Meeting Tampon Lady, who decorated her hat with tampons and gave each of us tampon-brooches for entry into the capitol Friday evening.
  • Wearing bright Ohio Northern University t-shirts that a good friend sent me, only to have at least one person daily ask me where in Ohio I'm from, what year I graduated, or whether I was here to learn about the protests so I could teach friends "back home" how to be activists.
  • Having a state trooper inform me that I had to remove my hat before entering the house chamber, standing up for my rights and traditions, and having him back down when I walked past him and took a seat, hat firmly on my head.
  • Hearing two of my rabbis speak eloquently from the stage, and hearing Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks sing "Not Ready to Make Nice" all in the same afternoon.
  • The food and water that arrived in great quantity and with greetings from pro-choice activists from other states. Someone made a point of sending vegan pizza and donuts to Representative Farrar's office.
  • Having my son and his girlfriend protest with me for the first time ever on any issue. Of course I put them both to work via the Planned Parenthood volunteer table.
  • Finally getting my own official "Stand with Texas Women" shirt at about ten minutes until midnight on the final night.
  • Getting a chance to blog about my experiences right here! (Thanks Rude Pundit!)
Assorted pix and videos from the whole three weeks: