Concepcion Picciotto

This is not a cat related post.

Thirty-three years ago my Dad and I spent the day together. I was about to leave for boot camp having enlisted in the Army. It's wasn't unusual for my father to want to hang out with me. He and my mother had separated a couple of months before. My parents who had been unhappy together for a while had decided there was no need to stay together now that my sisters were out of the house and I was leaving home. I was unhappy at home watching them be miserable, and my enlistment was my solution to getting out of that home and out of Washington D.C. I guess we all needed a change.

Protest in 1982
My Dad never tried to talk me out of a military career and having himself served during WWII was rather proud of my choice. However, he knew my sudden decision to do so at that time may not have been a patriotic draw on my part. The day before I went to boot camp Dad took me out to lunch and then took me to visit two places; Arlington National Cemetery and the White House. He needed to make sure for his peace of mind that I understood what my choice could mean for me in the sacrifice I was committing to, be it my life or death. I wasn't genuinely listing to him as he stared at the White House relaying some story about his coming here before he shipped off to basic training, and that was when I first saw her, the tiny lady handing out flyers on the edge of the park in front of the White House. It was her and two other people protesting nuclear proliferation. "Are you listening to me baby girl?" my father huffed as he nudged me. "Sure Daddy, I got it" as I lied to him. We turned, and walked away.

Every year since when I came back into town I’d stop by the White House and there she sat. The other two people had later gone, and she was there, sometimes with an audience, but mostly alone. Other protests would come and go, but rain, snow, extreme heat or shine, Christmas, New Year and all another holiday, every day, she was there. Even after the City and Park Service closed off that part of Pennsylvanian Avenue and threatened to dismantle that protest, she was still there.

Over that past decade I’ve worked off the National Mall and sometimes walked by Lafayette Park, and there she was still. I’d take lunch breaks and sit on a bench and crochet and listened to her talk to people with that rag-covered wig and thick Spanish accent, but I never engaged her personally. Like the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, she was a constant fixture, a landmark of a sort that I expected to see there every day.  If you google for pictures of Lafayette Park or Jackson's statue, by default you will always see a little white hump and two yellow signs manned by Concepcion Picciotto.

I’m a bit ashamed to say so, but strangely it will be weird not to see her there. I wonder if there is anyone else to continue the protest or if someone will take up the tent and signs to place them in a museum, maybe mine. I hope not. Somehow I think that would be disrespectful of her sacrifice to continue to make her protest an exhibit to ogle and then pass by. Collectively, I believe that we (I) have done that enough.

Rest well Concepcion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...