Brattleboro, VT - He did not meet with Nancy Pelosi, and President Bush has not been impeached, but John Nirenberg sees his 485-mile journey from Boston to Washington, D.C., as a success."I accomplished personally what I set out to do," he said. "I had to do what I did because I was so outraged with the behavior of this administration and the persistence of our mistreatment of people both at home and abroad."
And he's not giving up now.
"I wish Nancy Pelosi had seen me personally," he said. "She may yet."
A retired professor and dean of the School for International Training, Nirenberg decided late last fall to march to the capital in order to spread his message that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have violated the Constitution and ought to be impeached.
"This whole issue of impeachment is, to me, the most important of all these issues, because how the president has behaved in violating the Constitution has led to all these other issues," he said, pointing to the Iraq war, waterboarding of prisoners and what he called "the elimination of dissent."
Nirenberg left Brattleboro Nov. 30 and began his walk outside of Boston's Faneuil Hall the next day. A month and a half later, he arrived in Washington with a pair of tired legs and more than a dozen supporters who joined him for part of his walk.
But the journey did not end there.
Nirenberg tried to visit the National Archives after reaching the capital but he and his compatriots were hassled by guards for wearing hats, shirts and ponchos bearing their message, he said. Noting the irony of being barred from viewing the very document that bestowed on him the right to free speech, Nirenberg said, "I took my hat off and went in to pay my respects to the Bill of Rights."
"I didn't want to get arrested before finding out whether or not I would get to see Nancy Pelosi," he added.
Throughout his more than two weeks in Washington waiting for Pelosi's office to call him back and visiting as many Congressional offices as he could, Nirenberg felt overwhelmed by the heightened security.
"Washington, D.C., appeared to me to be an armed camp," he said. "We were immediately on notice we were being hassled. The powers that be let us know who was in charge."
He wandered the halls of the Capitol and dropped off messages and petitions to members of Congress whose constituents he had met along the way. Most of them, he said, would not give him the time of day -- and many of their staff members seemed unfamiliar with their positions on impeachment.
"I was shocked the first day. I almost got ill at the ignorance of Congressional staffers and their lack of courtesy to people dropping in to visit them," Nirenberg said. "Your basic Wal-Mart greeter has more customer awareness than your basic Congressional staffer. They, at least, can tell you where to find things."
Nirenberg managed to meet with only a couple Congressmen, including Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and his own Congressman, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.
"He was very polite. He's a decent guy, but he's a total party drone," Nirenberg said of Welch. "He is impervious to all of the logic behind the impeachment movement. This is what is so insidious. He recognizes all the abuses of power and he refuses to take leadership."
Though he held out hope as long as he could, Nirenberg was not granted a meeting with Pelosi before returning to Vermont. He did, however, meet for an hour with two of her aides. They were polite and he had a good conversation with them, he reported, but the Speaker is no closer to putting impeachment on the table.
Now back in Vermont, Nirenberg is spending time blogging on his Web site, www.marchinmyname.org, thanking friends who helped him along the way, and waiting for Pelosi to call.
More frustrated with the system than ever, he at least feels successful in spreading his message through 485 miles of America.
"It's awakened in some people for the first time the urge to do something which they haven't done before," he said.
Paul Heintz can be reached at email@example.com
© 2008 Brattleboro Reformer