Betsy’s Weird Week in Washington (Part Six of a continuing series)

So the continuing saga of my stay in the swamp. And what a week it has been. It has finally gotten swampy here weather-wise. But Tighe and Medea, bless their hearts, took pity on us and installed room air conditioners. We are trying to use them frugally but all the same it is a nice respite from the humidity outside. Guess I’m not as tough as I was 25 years ago living in the Marshall Islands without it.

Monday was another quiet day. We caught up on things in the NFFC office. Outside our office building we were greeted by this moving tribute to those lost to gun violence. Later in the week it became a bit ironic. 

On Tuesday we began our big event for the week. Over 20 farmers from around the country flew into DC to lobby congress about the proposed Bayer Monsanto merger. Tuesday evening we met with everyone and strategized about our meetings on The Hill. Friends of the Earth was the lead organization but here is the list of all the groups involved: Center for Food Safety, Farm Aid, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, National Family Farm Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Organic Farmers Association Organic Seed Alliance, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, Organization for Competitive Markets, Rural Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, SumOfUs. Honorary Cohosts: Representatives David N. Cicilline, John Conyers, Jr., Henry C. Hank Johnson, Jr., Chellie Pingree and Senator Jeff  Merkley.    

On Thursday we had a briefing in the Rayburn building that was so well attended that it was standing room only….in a big room! One of our teams met with the Department of Justice to discuss their investigation. All in all a great effort by the organizers and the farmers who, leaving their farms in the middle of the busy season, came talk to their congresspeople. Mike Weaver, the Executive Director of Organization for Competitive Markets, said this to me at the end of the second day, “I usually leave these things, and this place, and I frowning but today I am grinning. This was a well-organized, productive two days.”    Here is a picture of me and my team:


The Hill, however, was an armed camp for two days. As you have heard, unless you live in a cave, there was a shooting Wednesday morning. An unbalanced man with a lethal weapon decided to manifest the anger and resentment that many, many people are feeling in this current political climate and started shooting at the Republican Congressional Softball team as they practiced for a charity ballgame. There were several injuries including Congressman Steve Scalise and a Lobbyist for Tyson food, Matt Mika. Both were in critical condition at last report. That morning things were tense on the hill and we saw a lot of this:


By afternoon things had calmed down a bit as one of my lobbying team members pointed out. Next day, however, we were back in armed camp mode. Even the street by our office building was barricaded, which was a new one for me even though we are right across the street from the Supreme Court. We never figured out why. There were police BUSES! Lined up all around the capitol as if they were preparing for mass arrests. We saw no protesters anywhere. Not one.  And that in and of itself is a bit unusual.  When we asked one young police woman in front of the Supreme Court what was going on and she said “suspicious package”. Well, I want to know who had ESP and knew by 8 am that morning that there was going to be a suspicious package that afternoon. They should be paying that guy the big bucks!
Anyhow the shooting of the Congressman and the Lobbyist has opened the discussion, once again, about who should and shouldn’t have a gun. A friend of mine on the book of the face hoped that Congressman Scalise might have an epiphany. Maybe two, since one of the young officers who saved his butt is a married, black, gay woman. He’s against gay marriage, too.

So on it goes. We make two steps forward and one step back. I try to be cheerful and friendly to everyone I meet and am rewarded, 99% of the time, by cheerful friendliness in return. The only person who was curt and unfriendly to me all week was one of the guards outside the minority whip’s office. But I guess I’d be grumpy, too, if I was forced to carry a loaded automatic rifle and be suspicious of everyone.

And for those who know me, and know we had a HUGE victory in Maine this week, I am not forgetting it.   I will be doing a separate post about it.   Soon.   But congratulations to all the hard working food sovereignty advocates up home.   We won one!!!!

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