Tuesday, September 13, 2005

No On Roberts

I just arrived home from a day in DC with 13 other men and women from local NOW chapters. We got to DC at 11:00 am, had a lovely Indian lunch, and then headed over to the Dirksen and Hart buildings for our appointments with Senator Santorum and Senator Specter.

Before arriving at the Dirksen building (where Santorum's office is), we saw a few women from the Feminist Majority, who were handing out stickers that read "No On Roberts." We were happy to see them, since the group was still unsure of what our appointments with the Senators' staff would be like. After passing them on the road, we saw 5 young ladies who represented NeW. A reporter was asking one of these young women a simple question: "Are you a feminist?" She couldn't answer, so she turned to her friend, who then turned to her other friend, who finally called in the 5th girl who said: "I am not a feminist, no way. I don't need anyone, especially the government, to help me." We were to see part of this group again, which I predict consisted of 15 women all told.

We headed up to Senator Santorum's office, where there were two big copies of It Takes a Family. The staff were none too pleased to accomodate our unwieldy group and so called, quickly, the staffers who were scheduled to speak with us.

Once in the room, we presented to them our position paper, which took us several weeks to write. We introduced ourselves, gave an overview of our concerns with Judge Roberts and then many told personal stories. Once we finished speaking, Melanie Looney, who was the Judiciary LA, started off with a condescending statement about how Senator Santorum would have little use for the questions we devised since he was not on the Judiciary committee. Believe it or not, we did know this, but we nonetheless thought we should let Senator Santorum know what our position was and what his constituents were thinking. They were happy to see us go, but we forced them to take a picture of the group.
What is remarkable to me is that of the two offices, the staff of Santorum's office were far more gentile and accomodating. Our experience with Senator Specter's LA was unpleasant.

Before heading to our 1:15 pm appointment, we went outside to join the women and men from the Feminist Majority and NOW. There were about 30-40 women (The WaPo just reported that only 21 women showed up to protest--see my pictures below), more once we showed up at 12:30 pm.

So while we were assembled here, full of positive energy and hope, the pro-Roberts, pro-life women walked in front of us. Here are two pictures of this group.

If you can see this picture, you will notice that one of these counter-protestor's signs says "I love men's sports." Lovely.

Soon after this scene, I was called down for an interview. I explained why our group showed up in DC to talk to our senators. Then the reporter asks me what I think of these other women out here protesting us and supporting Roberts. My answer: "It's a democracy." The reporter seemed unhappy with this answer, probably because it was so fair-minded of me. So, she pressed further, "But what do you think of these women who support Roberts and are against all you stand for." Of course, I have studied enough of the media to surmise she wants to ferret out of me some fighting words. I don't bite. I simply say, I think it's great to hear their views and (which was true) their presence animates and energizes our group."

I have no idea if this will make it into her article, since, I was far too boring.

We left our NOW and Feminist Majority friends to attend to our 1:15 appointment with Senator Specter's staffer. We met with Jessica Foster, who was irritated at the size of our group and dragged us down to the cafeteria. It became clear, immediately, that the cafeteria wouldn't suit us. We had women with us about to say very personal and sensitive things, and, they were supposed to do this around a bunch of strangers eating Chili dogs?

She agreed to stand with us in the hallway, which was lame. We were tired of standing and hot. We had made an appointment, and she was unwilling to take us into their office. Then, she proceeded to dismiss our position, saying she was already familiar with NOW's stance. She also pointed out that Senator Specter had already prepared his questions and it was too late for him to look at our (wittle) paper.

I tried to remind her (at this point really pissed off) that we are not a "position" but women and men with real stories and a passion for our rights. We didn't just drive our asses down here to be left in the hallway, in front of the cafeteria serving the Dirksen and Hart buildings.

One of our members then let Ms. Foster know that we had in fact voted for Senator Specter. That seemed to soften her a bit. She then tried to focus more on the people in front of her and listen to their stories.

The lobby visits were disappointing, but we knew this was likely. We showed up mainly to do our part, to be able to go to sleep tonight knowing that we did our best to have our voices heard.

As we left the Hart building, we saw a line of women and men from Planned Parenthood, holding up signs and trying to attract the attention of folks walking or driving in front of the Hart building. We started to cheer for them, which was probably the first time someone did cheer for them all day.

I am glad that I went today. I hadn't been that engaged since the March for Women's Lives. The difference, today, was that far fewer women and men were out protesting these hearings. I guess part of it is the sense that Roberts will be confirmed. And, for some the issue is work. Three of the women that came along with our group had to take off work (with no pay) to be with us. I hope that other women will get down to the Hart building this week and join in the women who are protesting Judge Roberts' nomination. If you are near DC, go!