On the road with my 13 yer old daughter… marching for stricter gun laws in DC, learning about the holocaust, and getting to know one another as adults

In an attempt to further radicalize my 13 year old daughter, I whisked her away on a last-minute road trip to D.C. Friday afternoon so that we could attend the big March for Our Lives demonstration. Having spent much of the past few days behind the wheel, I’m pretty exhausted at the moment, but I wanted to share a few quick thoughts and photos.

1. This was the longest trip Clementine and I have ever been on together, without the rest of the family. I’m not sure how much she enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. While I think, generally speaking, we have a pretty decent relationship, there’s nothing like spending 24 hours trapped in the same small car with one another to bring two people closer together. And I’m incredibly happy that things worked out so that we could do it. We not only had an opportunity talk at length about everything from middle school drama to the current state of American politics, but we were also able to catch up on a few podcasts, listening, among other things, to the Pod Save America interview with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who planned the DC march and the Slow Burn episode about Martha Mitchell. [I was surprised to learn both how much Clementine knew about the current gun control movement, and how little she knew about Watergate.] Here we are, post-march, at the Lincoln Memorial. [I’ve been thinking a lot about Lincoln lately, and I’d wanted to visit Ford’s Theater the following morning, on our way out of town, but there weren’t any tickets available.]

[note: As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t cover the eyes of my kids here because I’m ashamed of what they look like. I just decided several years ago that, barring some kind of blogging emergency, I would’t post photos of them here until they were adults. Too many bloggers, I think, cash in on the cuteness of their kids, and I didn’t want to be like that. And, more importantly, given how pervasive surveillance culture is in the world today, I thought they deserved to have at least a few years of something approaching privacy, before being thrust into this increasingly insane world of ours.]

2. For an event planned by students that the NRA has referred to as “violent radicals,” things never felt the least bit out of control during the march. There were no “urban riots.” No windows were smashed. There was just a lot of hugging and crying. As I told Clementine on the subway later that evening, if she’d licked my face, it would have tasted saltier than a country ham. [If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to listen to the speakers at the rally, and their absolutely heartbreaking stories of gun violence.] Here’s a photo of Clementine shortly after our arrival on Pennsylvania Avenue Saturday morning.

3. As we got to the march several hours before the event, we decided to jog over to the Hirshhorn and see their Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s exhibition, which, by the way, was really incredible… Here are just a few photos.

[above: Clementine trying to avoid looking directly at Ron Mueck’s “Big Man,” me contemplating Mark Bradford’s “Pickett’s Charge,” and “Untitled” by Barbara Kruger.]

4. I’d written out a sign on the top of a pizza box. It said, “Guillotines Not Guns.” Clementine, however, wouldn’t let me hold it up during the rally. She didn’t mind the implied threat to politicians. It was the fact that I’d written it on a grease-stained pizza box that bothered her. [There were a lot of really great signs at the march, but I didn’t get images of many, as I was worried that, if I took too many photos, my cell phone battery would die, and I wouldn’t be able to direct us back to the metro station so that we could catch a train back to the Maryland suburbs, where we were crashing with my incredibly generous aunt and uncle.]

5. I loved that, with the exception of the performers who sang songs during the March for Our Lives rally, everyone on the stage was a young person. There were no politicians. There were no movie stars. There were just young people who had been touched, in one way of the another, by gun violence. And it wasn’t just kids from Parkland, Florida either. The organizers had the good sense to widen the scope of the event, bringing not only the predominantly white and affluent students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to the stage, but also numerous students of color from places like Chicago and Los Angeles, driving home the point that kids in disadvantaged areas of our country have been living in fear of gun violence for decades before this current wave of suburban mass shootings brought the subject to the attention of the American press.

6. After the march, Clementine and I… I guess because I felt as though we hadn’t cried nearly enough… walked over to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While I’d been there before, I’d never been with Clementine, and I felt as though she was finally of an age, having just read Elie Wiesel’s Night, where she could process it. In retrospect, maybe, after hearing all the stories of young people who had lost friends and relatives to gun violence, we should have done something that didn’t require us to contemplate the existence of death camps, but I thought it was important for us to take advantage of the fact that her little brother wasn’t around to discuss what can happen when racism is allowed to flourish, and when people terrified of uncertainty and change are encouraged to look for scapegoats.

7. On the way back home, in hopes of counterbalancing all of the heavy stuff we’d encountered, we stopped in Morgantown, West Virginia, and visited their statue of Don Knotts. [I ask you, what little girl doesn’t love Don Knotts?]

8. After a quick lunch in Morgantown, we were on to Lexington, to visit with my 93 year old grandmother and look through her photo archives over hot chocolate. [I’m not sure what’s happening in this first photo, but it looks to me like my beloved grandmother, thinking that she’d accidentally killed me, is checking to see whether or not I have a pulse.]

9. In addition to spending an afternoon with Mimi Dorothy, the matriarch of our family, Clementine and I were also the guests of honor at a big spaghetti dinner at the home of yet another generous aunt and uncle, who were also kind enough to put us up for the night. Most of my cousins and their kids showed up, as well as my parents, who drove down from northern Kentucky. Many games were played. And many laughs were shared.

I could say more about all of these things, but, like I said at the start of this post, I’m exhausted… One last thing, though. I’m not sure if, in 20 years, Clementine will even remember this little, three-day trip of ours, and the 24 hours or so that we spent in the car together getting to know one another as adults, but I know I’ll always look back with fondness on my memories of hugging her in the middle of a closed-down Pennsylvania Avenue, surrounded by other parents and their kids, and talking with her about how, if anything is going to get fixed in this world, it’s going to be because her generation fought like hell to make it happen.

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  1. anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Who could possibly think that wearing a Make America Great Again hat in the Holocaust Museum would be a good idea?

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    lovely. These trips with our kids, in my experience, are what they remember most vividly. I have 3 siblings and a demanding mom. I was in my 20’s when I took my first trips with just my dad. They were important, even then. Even now.

  3. wobblie
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry, Clementine will remember her daddy daughter trip for the rest of her life. Whether she remembers the same details as you–different eyes, different experience.

  4. Teresa Moreland
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Mark, this brought tears to my eyes. You are a wonderful person and a great father. Clementine is blessed to have you as her Daddy. She will remember that trip and you will always CHERISH the memory.

  5. matt
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Hell yeah she’ll remember it. Of all the tours and trips I’ve taken, the ones I’ll remember most are the ones with my folks- three day whirlwind trips to Civil War battlefields etc.

  6. Lynne
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    What an awesome trip! Those large marches can be very enlightening and energizing.

  7. Iron Lung 2
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I hope you took the time to explain the concept of white genocide to her as you went through the Holocaust Museum.

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    What father daughter trip is complete without a discussion of white genocide?

    My son and I were just discussing the history of racialized anti-immigrant sentiment and systems in the US as we walked down Orchard Street in NY. All interesting enough, especially when punctuated by bialy with smoked salmon and street ball. We still have one of the most ethnically and racially diverse Western countries. It ain’t easy, but it’s who we are. — so Many ways to tell the story of America.

  9. Anne
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I suggest watching the spoken word piece of WIHI student Serena Varner opening up the local March in AA.

  10. Erin O'Leary
    Posted March 27, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Wow!! Powerful, Mark. I’ve got tears in my eyes reading about your experience. Like many other young people, it seems like Clementine grasps the seriousness of the issue. I’m sure it was an incredible experience to be in DC in person. She won’t easily forget it.

    I was only able to watch online, and I was blown away by the speakers and turnout, especially the international support.

  11. Iron Lung 2
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Soon there will be a museum in Washington, DC memorializing White Genocide.

  12. Jean Henry
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    “Soon there will be a museum in Washington, DC memorializing White Genocide.”

    Have you seen the Washington Monument…?

  13. John Galt
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    The Monument to White Genocide exists. It’s called Chipolte.

  14. stupid hick
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    At first I thought “have you seen the White House” would have been a more obvious retort, but “Washington Monument” is a more serious, thoughtful, response, befitting of a Jean Henry comment. I knew nothing about it before googling the history.

  15. Iron Lung 2
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Note the difference between the genocide of white people, and genocides committed by white people.

    Soon, people will be taking their children to museums to see the white man as he existed before the genocide, in his native environment as he was.

  16. stupid hick
    Posted March 29, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Pete, I mean White Genocide ™ the alt_right conspiracy theory. Also Google the history of the Washington Monument and the Know Nothings. I’m assuming that’s what Jean was aluding to. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

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