On Peaceful Protest, and Why We March.

Obama's Inauguration, January 2009
The view at Obama’s Inauguration, January 2009

As a high-school junior attending Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, I could never have imagined that, 8 years later, this is where we’d be. Disillusioned and scared, weary and furious, self-righteous and utterly heartbroken. Yet, here we are. Here we are, about to move forward in a world where discrimination is par for the course. Where there is absolutely an ‘I’ in ‘team’ and what matters to me matters far more than what matters to us. Where it seems like it’s every man for himself and that daring to speak up for our fellow citizens makes us elitists, out-of-touch, libtards, and worse.

I have tried my utmost to reach out. To extend a hand across the aisle and work together for peace. It seems, though, that so many honest overtures are unconscionably  rebuffed. I’ve spent hours attempting to participate in civil discourse with those at odds with me, but — at least in my personal experience — so many are disinterested. They have no desire to be confronted with facts or figures. They don’t want my unbiased sources or nonpartisan statistics. They are high on a feeling. An acknowledgement of their deep-seated anger, their pervasive fear. They do not seem to care about what their leader says, only about “what is in his heart.

What is in his heart though? A bone-deep mistrust of Islam, a faith that is rooted in peace. An established distrust of immigrants, though they are the backbone of our society. A delusional understanding of the African-American community, although they are a huge part of what makes our country great. An inherent disbelief in science, facts, and figures, though they determine how we best serve our world. An intrinsic sense of superiority, though our government works best within the spirit of collaboration. A seemingly unfathomable sense of entitlement, though women have worked for years to overcome that pervasive societal patriarchy in which men like this one feel that they have rights to women’s bodies, souls, and minds.

So, confronting what’s in his heart? From this, I find no comfort. What I discover within myself when I force myself to look into the face of this man is a seemingly endless well of fury. How dare this man join the political fray and create a candidacy based on populist fears? How dare he disrespect and degrade women, the disabled, and the poor? How dare he speak ill of Muslims, African-Americans, Mexicans, and all those who look different from him? How dare he. How did we let this happen?

What I know is that, moving forward, fury is not enough. This fury, this burning desire to prove our nation better than this, that is what moves us forward. I have called my senators and my congresspeople. I have kept myself informed via news outlets that span the political spectrum, even when it hurts. Even when I think that if I read one more word I will curl up in a corner somewhere and start crying and never stop. I have reached out across the aisle and kept reaching. I will keep reaching.

Concretely, though, there is only so much I can do. There is only so much I will suffer. I am a straight, cisgendered, white, college-educated, middle-class American. The only strikes against me are my faith and my gender, and — in the grand scheme of America at this moment — those blemishes fade in the face of my privilege. This fight we’re fighting? This weariness and helplessness and hopelessness we feel? For so many Americans, this isn’t new. For black Americans who have struggled so hard for so long, for — in some ways — so little, this isn’t new. For lesbian and gay and bisexual Americans, and especially trans Americans (and within that group, trans folks of color in particular) who have fought and bled and died, been spat on and maligned and ignored, this isn’t new. For disabled Americans, who have been systematically denied a voice, who have been ignored and infantilized and mistreated so brutally by so many of our systems, this isn’t new. For immigrants who have put everything they have, everything they are, on the line for a better life for their children? It’s not new for them either.

So we fight. We speak out. We stand up for the people who have stood up for themselves for so, so long. They’re tired. They’re angry. They have fought this fight over and over again and so often been betrayed by those who purport to be their allies. I cannot blame them if they choose to sit this one out. In an earlier post, I talked about how accepting white privilege isn’t about accepting guilt, but about embracing responsibility. That is still true. It is my responsibility to stand up for those who have been standing up for all of us for so long. That is a mantle of responsibility I am proud to take up. No one should have to walk this road alone.

I march because if you are a woman, an immigrant, a member of the Latinx community, a member of the Black community, a member of the Muslim community, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a member of the Native American community, a member of the Pacific Islander community, a person of color, a person with disabilities, a member of the Jewish community and/or a human being in America, I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that I care. I want you to know that the rights that are important to me are my rights, but also yours. I want you to know that I genuinely believe that this country is only as strong as the sum of its parts. That solidarity is real. That every person in this country deserves an equal chance, and that I know that the deck has been stacked against so many of you. That it is pretty damn hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when yours are 9 feet shorter than mine. I want you to know that you are not in this alone. 

I am lucky enough to be marching with friends tomorrow. Men and women, LGBT and straight allies, white and POC. Inspired by the videos made by the Women’s March on Washington, I wanted to ask some of them why they march, too. You can read their answers below:

K: I march to remind the incoming president elect that a nation of underserved communities is watching. I march as a statement of inclusion and a promise of effort to fight for the things I believe in most. I march to stand up against discrimination and to rise up against injustice. I march for all, because love is love and love trumps hate!

Love trumps hate.
We march because love trumps hate.

A: I march because I want to use my voice for good. I march because I want marginalized communities to know that I am with them.

B: I march because I love women and I hate Trump. I march because I actually — unlike some people — like other people.

Hamilton Protest Poster
A little inspiration from Hamilton for tomorrow.

Z: I march because I will not let our nation succumb to fascism. I march because my life matters, and Black Lives Matter.

R: I march because I believe women deserve the right to choose. I march because I don’t need a woman to be my wife, mother, sister, or daughter to know that she matters.

Fight like a girl.
Our bodies, our choices. Women’s rights are human rights.

L: I march because even though our leaders are thriving on divisive rhetoric, we are always stronger together.

We march tomorrow in cities all across America, and all over the world. We march for those who are not able to march for themselves. We march because love wins. We march because we’re not giving up: not now, not ever. We hope you’ll join us.

I can’t wait to see you there.

–S

Day 20: January 20, 2017

 

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