Agnostic rallying: on the Women’s March (& sister marches)

From the moment the concept of the Women’s March emerged, I was conflicted about it. I did not share in the same level of despondency as many people (and women) post-election. I didn’t feel a need for solidarity because I often feel I have that in my everyday life and that didn’t prevent this election result from happening. I wondered whether the organizers would assemble speakers that reflected the diverse viewpoints of women. There is no one feminism after all.

Over the past few weeks, I have had so many thoughts moving past one another at all times. I can hardly marshal one before another pops up behind it.

I have distilled my worries into the following concrete thought: the president has very little impact on MY daily life. That’s because I am gainfully employed, not carrying student loan debt, I have access to affordable health insurance through my employer, and I am a citizen of this country. I have heard others rationalize the Trump election in this way–well the president has so little to bear on my life, I should tune out until 2020.

Except, I know my experience of this country is not exceptional. And I also know that my experience as an American citizen enables me peace, safety, security, and comfort in a way that not all Americans do. And I don’t want to live in a country where the president can drastically change the rights of people, suppress their voices, pervert information, dismiss the concerns of truly marginalized groups. I have lived my whole life in this country–a country build on oppression and suppression–and have been blind to the comfort and security of other people. And maybe that’s because other presidents haven’t represented the clear and present danger to everyone as this president does. And that’s not a good excuse either.

I have also heard that no matter what brings you to the table, you should stay at the table.

I had so many thoughts all at once, it was difficult to organize them and figure out my #WhyIMarch. When you aren’t sure about something, you can easily lean out, take a break from it. Or you can submit yourself to it. And let’s face it, to have the choice about whether to engage is a privilege on its own.

That didn’t keep me from feeling conflicted or from wondering #WhyIMarch. As news of the Trump administration’s cabinet decisions and policy agendas have taken hold, I felt utterly worried and nervous about the direction of our country. The inaugural address didn’t assure me that I would be included in this administration’s pans to make our country great. I continued to channel my energy into keeping myself informed, staying on top of the decisions of the Trump administration, and knowing as many of the things about the things as I could. I became a monthly contributor to Emily’s List. I started my girls on an allowance at the start of the year to start teaching them philanthropy. I just kept my mind moving.

Then sister marches began to coalesce in cities around the country and I began to ease my mind about going to DC which is logistically tricky from New England. I decided I would attend the sister rally in Hartford happening at the same time as the rallies across the country and around the world. I thought about bringing my children and did invite my husband. I reached out to local friends (many of whom ended up attending the local rally) and in the end, I didn’t galvanize a critical mass to go with me.

So I went by myself.

It was a warm Saturday and hundreds of people are gathered against the backdrop of a sunny, blue sky in front of out state’s Capitol building–a gorgeous structure. There were so many signs, including a sign held by a dad with a daughter who shares my daughter’s name. And people’s energy just flowed through the space. The organizers skillfully passed the baton to the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence who instructed the crowd how to use Kingian principles of nonviolence in our rally. People were there to protest the president, rights for refugees and immigrants, reproductive rights, protection of the environment, and to make a statement. Our governor and elected officials spoke passionately about our state and their work to preserve the rights of women and marginalized groups. I felt assured by their commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive state. From the Governor’s lips…

And I learned a few things:

  • You can have thoughts moving in every direction, many of which are in conflict with one another when you’re protesting something. That’s completely expected, in fact. You may not agree with every person who shares your values. But you have to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
  • I also learned that we will begin and end with love–resistance is built on love.
  • And listening-to be an ally (and right now, I am joining movements that have been in existence for ages and ages so I can hardly call myself a member just yet) but as an ally, you have to listen before you lend your voice.
  • Resistance comes in big and small ways. But I do not think simply teaching kindness or vowing to be kind will be enough to make it through these next four years, And that starts with pushing back on microaggressions and sexism locally.

It was special to attend the march by myself. I was trying too hard in my head to get it right. I didn’t have a sign, I didn’t have a hat. I didn’t bring my daughters. I went to bear witness, to be present, to learn and to listen.

I am not sure where to go from here, but I’m just going to keep my head down because it’s going to be a long haul.

About rglw

Sociologist mom writes for work and for pleasure.
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