Dispatches from Indivisible

photo by Stephanie Barbe Hammer

Dispatches from Seattle Indivisible. 6 micro portraits at the March For Truth, June 2017

1. O has had a liver transplant. He's 66. His wife died 7 months ago. He lives on a lesser San Juan Island. He makes great signs. He wears a cap and looks dapper. He goes to every protest because he's an amateur scientist and understands climate change. He’s sad, but he’s also limber. He can march for miles but that big step from the pavement up to the grass where the rally at the space needle is poses a problem.

2. R is a scientist with long black hair and a grey streak. She lives in town, so she knows where to go for lunch after the marches are over. R has kids with her; one has purple hair; both have signs and determined expressions. I tell them look for people's characters when they make a mistake. How they act afterwards -- that's the measure of who they are. I have an Egyptian neighbor she says. He’s the nicest person.

3. A teaches at a Waldorf school in a town north of Seattle. She was Muslim, then Christian, and now is Baha’I (I think). She carries a gold handbag and wears many bracelets and rings. I am running for city council she says because there needs to be more Pakistani Americans in office. Where are the other resistors? she asks. Everyone should be here! She hugs me, tilting on high heels.

4. X is a professional gambler; his schedule allows him to organize political events. He wears a baseball cap, situated backwards. There's self-selection here, he says and that's a problem. Only people with a lot money or none, with time on their hands because they are unemployed or are independently wealthy, who don't have kids or who have professional help or who can bring their kids have the ability to do this. He lights a cigarette. I need to talk to you about the next rally.

5. E wears a hijab. E is an attorney. E can tell you 10 ways to handle Islamophobia in less than 40 seconds. E is a born leader but she is tired. I need more Muslims to get out there. she says. And you Non-Muslims need to help. Show up. Go to an Iftar. Don't hang back. Don't be silent. She smiles, makes another speech.

6. S is a former cop. She feels no fear. This pisses off people from her Puget Sound community, because she is perceived as aggressive. She waves her sign in restaurants and in the parking lot after the protest is over – it’s never over for her. Don’t write her off as insensitive though. At the last Federal Building rally she said she worried that her nieces and nephews wouldn’t know what tigers, elephants, and glaciers are. She wept openly as she spoke. Hi, she yelled at the police officers surrounding the event. WHERE ARE YOUR FEMALE MOTORCYCLISTS? She winks at me. I always ask that, she says. because they're better crowd managers than the guys.


Dispatches from Indivisible: Wednesday 12 am - 2 am, June 21st, vigil outside rural hospital, Whidbey Island (419 words)

What you might not see in the dark on Main Street

— 2 cushioned chairs that M brought to put on the sidewalk to protect your spine and keep out the cold. 2 blankets folded neatly on each chair, because it was windy and it would get windy-er.

— 2 pizzas pepperoni and cheese. “I can’t eat either” said a woman in a pussy hat. “I’m a vegan.” “I can eat it all,” said M who brought the chairs. He ate 3 slices and put the boxes in his car.

— 1 blue lantern placed by the chairs in case the street lights went out.

— 4 grocery bags of snacks brought by a young woman and her daughter. “I am not a citizen” she said, “but my daughter is and I want my daughter to see what you are doing.” The daughter’s name was N, and she was 7. “The apples are organic,” she told us, “and the chocolate covered almonds are right here in this smaller bag. They’re the best part,” she whispered, “but eat some cherries first.”

— 1 US marshall in his car. “Have you seen a woman with a dog?” “No,” I said “but I saw a man with a dog and he went over the bridge.”

— 1 young man just showed up and stood with us. “I have autism,” he explained “and I can’t hold down a regular job but if you put me in front of a table with a pc in a bunch of pieces, I can put it all back together in 45 minutes — that’s if the pieces are all laid out — otherwise it might take a little longer. My mom works the graveyard shift at the hospital, so I am hanging out here waiting for her and at first I thought you might be my friends, who are sometimes homeless, and I thought are they back?’ but no they were you.”

— 1 very long silence at 1:45 am.

— 1 pickup truck. The driver doing a double take at 2 silhouettes sitting in chairs with big signs on a deserted street.

— 3 people marching towards us in the shadows of the streetlights. In the flickering dark, the figures look scary. No. Three women. A mother, her daughter, and the daughter’s friend. The friend is wearing Uggs. They are here to take the next shift. “It’s no problem” said the friend. “We like to stay up late.”

Stephanie Barbe Hammer is a 4 time Pushcart Prize nominee in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. You can read her writing online as well as check out her novel The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior and her poetry collection How Formal?. She is a founding member of Indivisible Whidbey.