Washington is first and foremost a political town. As such, the gap between those supporting the political machine and those opposed, is often glaringly at odds. Washington is not a fable, nor are many upbeat tunes composed in its honor. The city is distinct in that it respects a certain concept: that of freedom of speech.

Scores of demonstrations have passed through the capital over the years. As a rule, renegade Americans are roped into the mall, or area adjacent to the Washington Monument. An occasional lone person recognizes the futility of confining protest and takes their grievance to the street.

Conformity has a high priority in Washington. To those who have accepted and come to overlook this bland formality, the sighting of Concepcion Picciotto is a refreshingly unusual sight. Her name is not a household word, her story not splashed across morning dailies. Yet Dona Picciotto, by force of her statement alone, deserves attention. In a time where discontents are encouraged to write their congressmen, Concepcion Picciotto, having tried this and failed, has chosen to present her case directly to the people.

A woman has been seen walking the streets of Washington wearing a huge wig. In her hand is a sign detailing the horrors she has experienced. Words such as NAPALM, TORTURE, HITLERS, RADIATION, inevitably catch the eye of the passerby. Many are wont to ask after this woman. Who is she? Why the wig? What conditions have led her to-this? Those who have stopped to inquire as to her purpose, her reason for the masquerade, are struck by the discrepancy between the brutal language on the placard and the words the woman speaks.

Dona Concepcion Picciotto has been singled out. Circumstances have seen to it that her life be one of unending protest. This whirlwind of activity is no pointless dramatization, but one from which she hopes to see results.

Concepcion Picciotto is a Spanish born, naturalized citizen. Her marriage to a Sicilian industrial expert in New York was doomed from the start. In the midst of divorce proceedings a concerted agreement at destruction was reached by her husband and the courts, Dona Picciotto, as a result received less than fair treatment under the law. What she did receive was abuse in the form of (a) no right of entry into`her home, (b) no right to possess what had been her possessions, and (c) no visitation rights with her child. This denial has, for the past three years, been rigidly enforced. Dona Picciotto, quite understandably, is enraged: "Why me?,I have done nothing wrong. What is so special about me that everyone wants my destruction?" These questions, like the resonant echo of a paranoid mantra, have come to enter and possess her very being. She is obsessed with her predicament, just as we are with ours.

It is possible to retrace favorable aspects of American History through the cinema. In a darkened theater we pay our fare and meet John Doe or watch as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. By effortlessly dropping our preconceived notions of what is real and what is not we grow absorbed in the tale before us. These cinematic creations, these fantasy rebels who, by strength of their argument and thoroughness of their reasoning, forced the people in power to stop and listen, are Concepcion Picciotto's forebears. Granted, her means of expression is outlandish, yet this outlandishness is all the more appropriate to the time in which we live. Whereas the isolated, solitary activist of yesteryear stood on a soapbox with his oratory, Dona Picciotto sports a monstrous wig in defiance of police, reasonable behavior, and her own natural intelligence..The scales of justice may be blind, but we are not.

Concepcion Picciotto asks that she be heard, as well as seen. Although her extravagances are likely to raise eyebrows and cause tongues to wag, it is difficult to conscientiously banish her image from one's mind. Whatever pacifists reason over protest and behavior which does not conform, Concepcion is enough like each of us to consider taking an interest in her. Newspapers, TV and radio stations are intrigued by her, but inevitably balk at greater distribution of her story, The FBI and ACLU have received her, only to show her as quickly to the door through which she entered. Members of the House and Senate greet her with smiles and professional thugs who forcefully remove her from the surroundings. President Carter treats her registered letters the way normal people treat unsolicited junk mail. The Catholic Church, of which Dona Picciotto was a member, offered assistance if she agreed ta brainwashing treatment. These institutions seem unanimously agreed in their unwillingness to assist a woman in need. The question that needs to be asked is: WHY?

Apart from being a breathing, thinking, feeling human being, Concepcion Picciotto is a potent representation of this period in the history of mankind. In a city laden with symbols she is of particular interest. By shunning mystique, she hides nothing: neither her torment, her displeasure with the way life turned out, or her treatment by officials in power. The courageous stand of this woman is to be admired; her solitariness and isolation to be feared; yet both these aspects ought be discussed. Ultimately, her problems are the government's problems, her complaints the complaints of us all. As she stands before the Goliath of rights denied, Concepcion Picciotto is the ideal archetypal lone figure for our time.



Concepcion Information List | Conchita Personal Story
Photographs | The President's Neighbor