My First Protest
January 29th, 2017
Last Saturday, I attended a local branch of the international Women’s March on Washington. It was my very first protest. Oh, I’ve signed petitions, shared Facebook posts, donated to worthy causes, and engaged in other time-honored forms of armchair activism before, but this was the first time I suited up and waded in, poster-board in hand.
(A surprising fact, given that I’m a product of a liberal Midwestern college. How is it that I never found anything to protest? Not even the cereal flavors in the cafeteria? Apparently not.)
I had initially planned to journey all the way to Washington DC for the event. There was talk amongst my feisty feminist relations, spread across the country, that we should rendezvous in DC and join the march in all our matriarchal glory. But life and kids and expensive plane fares got in the way. In the end, though, the diffusion of the protest is what made it powerful. We weren’t together in the flesh, but we were together in spirit.
After the march, I took to Facebook (naturally) and was mesmerized by the reports flowing in from around the world. Upwards of 4 million women. More than 670 separate (peaceful!) marches in 81 countries. Friends posted pictures of themselves in Bogata and Berlin. In Houston and Chicago. In Denver and Durham and Pittsburgh. I couldn’t stop clicking through the aerial images of the crowds flooding every major city in America – and most of the major cities around the world.
There were also a lot of women who didn’t march, and not just because they had scheduling conflicts. I get that. There are people I love and respect, both in my social life and in my family, who do not share my political sentiments nor understand the desperate desire I have to scream into the darkness that I see around me. Some don’t even see the darkness. I think it’s important to have those voices in my life because living in an echo chamber of agreement and affirmation can warp you.
But last Saturday, I didn’t need my horizons broadened or my worldview challenged. I needed my people. I needed my sisters. I needed to stand in the middle of the street, surrounded by thousands of women (and men!) chanting – “This is what democracy looks like!” I needed pink hats and raucous cheers and signs with slogans ranging from the adorable to the uncomfortable. My own placard read “Love Trumps Hate” with pink rhinestones adorning the word ‘love.’
For me, the march was an extension of my eternal quest for community. When I’m scared or angry or heart-sick, I seek out my people because it is in community that my soul is made whole again. There is something both soothing and energizing about being in the presence of people who share a fundamental connection to the values and beliefs you treasure. It’s the feeling of – “It’s going to be okay because we will MAKE it okay, dammit.”
The world still confuses and frightens me some days. Okay, most days recently. But the women’s march was a much-needed reminder that I am not alone.