Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I Marched

Two of my daughters and I marched in the Park City, Utah Women’s March on Saturday. Unity, hope, strength, love, respect, and purpose fueled our gathering. Women, and a few men, marched for a variety of reasons. Some were there strictly for women’s rights, while others marched for marginalized groups in general. And though some women held signs and chanted for pro-choice, this was not a Pro-Choice March. I didn’t see anyone disparage fellow marchers for their chosen cause. No one defined the right or wrong way to be a woman. We embraced our diversity. We united in our quest for a better America. We unified in our protest against some of the measures our new president has promised to take that will restrict the rights of our fellow Americans.

I felt exhilarated taking part in this historic peaceful protest with an estimated 3-4 million people world-wide. There were plenty of smiles, pink hats, and woot-wooting. There was no violence, no looting, and nobody was arrested. In fact, the angriest person I saw was a man in a truck with “Trump” painted on his windows and a confederate flag sticker on his bumper. He gave us a mean look when he saw our hats. That was the extent of the negativity I experienced in Park City.

Yesterday, however, I saw plenty of negativity on social media regarding the event. People are mad because . . . I’m actually not sure why. Because we exercised our 1st amendment right by peacefully protesting? Because women shouldn’t want anything different from the status quo? Because we should “give Donald Trump a chance” without voicing our concerns about his treatment of women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities? I felt confused when I saw negative reactions to what I know was a positive, peaceful exercise in democracy.

I wonder if some people were turned off by the march because they personally don’t see a need for it. Their lives are pretty good. Why make a fuss? It is true that my personal life is very good. I have a good job, an awesome family, I am respected in my profession, I have health insurance, I can pay the bills, I don’t have to worry about my personal safety from day to day, and the list goes on and on. But here’s the thing—I am not America. I am one tiny facet of middle-class America—and I have it pretty good. The people I associate with share that space with me. But there are a whole lot of other facets of our country. I sometimes get a glimpse of those other perspectives when I interact with disadvantaged students and their parents. Single moms trying to make it on their own. Unemployed or underemployed parents who just don’t have the advantages I often take for granted. Adults who have emotional, mental, or physical disabilities that interfere with their abilities to provide for their families. These are people who may not live in our neighborhoods, but they live in our communities. Lifting the down-trodden helps to make a better America. Standing up for the needs of the least of these strengthens our society as a whole.

“March on Washington” events have been happening for decades. This is not a new idea. Last weekend we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. and his undying efforts in the Civil Rights Movement. Most Americans admire Dr. King today, but when he was ceaselessly working to correct the wrongs of our nation’s treatment of minorities, there was plenty of negativity and resistance from the general population of the U.S. In fact, after his “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered to 250,000 people during the Civil Rights March on Washington, William Sullivan of the FBI said:

“Personally, I believe in the light of King's powerful demagogic speech yesterday he stands head and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses of Negroes. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” 

“Demagogic speech”? “The most dangerous Negro”! This is someone most of us respect and admire. But doesn’t it make sense that someone who was assassinated had haters? MLK had them. And it was more than just the FBI. The peaceful marches he led didn’t work immediately, and they weren’t simply accepted with a nod of the head and a change of attitude from those who disagreed with his movement. Change takes time. I suppose in his case, it even took a martyr. When the nay-sayers insist that protesters be more like MLK, I’m not sure they understand the historical context of his protest.

I would never say that women are now in the same predicament that black people endured during the years leading up to the Civil Rights Act. There is no direct comparison of plights. I do believe, however, that the rights of all marginalized groups are threatened by a Donald Trump administration. My participation in a peaceful protest was largely because I believe in equality for all people, regardless of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or religion. A wall, a registry, a health care law repeal, a threat to laws already in place to protect the rights of marginalized groups—all of these things hurt America. “Alternate Facts” and Twitter tirades hurt America. And a silent majority hurts America.

In Donald Trump’s inaugural address on Friday, he said, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.” If he is listening to “forgotten” voices, then yesterday’s activities should have sent him a message. Yet his response on Twitter to the Women’s March was, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn't these people vote?” We did vote. Three million more people voted against him than voted for him. He didn’t win the popular vote. He takes office with an extremely low approval rating—just over one third of Americans are satisfied with him as our president. The best that the other two-thirds can hope for now is to raise our voices in unity and hope, and do it again and again until we are heard. Change takes time. The need for change is often met with resistance and misunderstanding. Donald Trump has shown time and again his true colors of misogyny and bigotry. I can’t sit by quietly hoping he won’t damage the rights of those I know and love. That’s why I marched. And I will continue to march until we see the equality we are looking for.
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