(We’ve heard from the Boston March. Now I turn it over to my neighbor Clare Sweeney who attended the March in Washington, DC. What follows are her thoughts and impressions from the day:)
When I first saw the Facebook post about a post-inauguration march on Washington, I knew I would be going. Why? In the days following the election, I wanted to march simply because I knew any type of protest would get under Trump’s thin skin – it was my way of flipping off a President Elect who disrespected and humiliated people for an entire year. Then, as the reality of a Trump presidency set in and the tweets and propaganda continued, I wanted to march just to show that I could – that my voice could not be silenced and that peaceful protests and free speech were an essential part of democracy. But, then came his appointments: an AG who stood against civil rights, an Education Secretary who wanted to defund public education, an Islamophobe for National Security Advisor, etc., etc. Now, I knew I wanted to march to show my support for those whose rights and civil liberties would soon be under attack – it was a long, long list.
We got to the march early – riding a wave of pink pussy hats to a prime spot on Independence Avenue right in front of one the many jumbotrons. We could hear and see the speakers perfectly. American Ferrara was particularly moving, pledging “we will not go from a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance” and “we are America and we are here to stay.” Michael Moore gave the audience a much-needed to-do list for after the march, and Ashley Judd brought the house down with a poetic but in-your-face speech on what it means to be a nasty woman. The rally was exciting and inspiring.
However, as time went on, the crowds on the original march route became so large that it became impossible to move, to hold up a sign, to fidget, to stretch. A few people got claustrophobic and panicky when they realized that they could not “escape” and they could definitely not March. People became more and more agitated. Yes, there was even vomiting. Organizers tried to direct people towards the mall but the crowds were so thick that it took almost an hour for us to break free. CRAZY. It was all crazy and scary. But, once we made it to the mall, we marched, we chanted, we took pictures of signs (so, so many clever signs), and we marveled at the sheer number of people who had come in protest of this new administration. It was a long day without food, water, or bathrooms but it was worth it.
I know a lot of marchers felt hopeful that this was the start of new wave of feminism – but I was not so optimistic. Yes, participating in the march gave me a renewed sense of solidarity and a reminder that I was not alone in my outrage. Sometimes, sitting in my liberal bubble of Lexington, MA, reading FB posts about yoga classes and buzz feed quizzes, I thought that I was living in an alternative universe. Where was the anger? Where was the fact checking? Where were the “WTF is going on” posts? The march helped me remember that a majority of Americans did not vote for this autocrat and, surrounded by people ready to fight him, I did feel hopeful for our future.
But then reality set in. How do you transform this passion into action? How do you take so many causes and progressive factions and focus them into an effective political strategy? Every cause was represented at the March – reproductive rights, climate change, LGBTQ rights, Native American rights, freedom of speech, environmental justice, criminal justice reform, Palestinian independence, Black Lives Matter. One sign summed it up, “Too Many Issues for One Sign.” Unfortunately, I fear identity politics and the complex world of intersectionality will make it difficult for Democrats to come together with a common purpose. And none of these issues or the march even begin to address the concerns of the white working class we lost to Trump. Trump’s populist nationalism clearly “trumped” the progressive’s call for equality and justice.
The Tea Party unified their diverse coalition under the umbrella of limited government and reduced spending. Maybe Bernie’s universal message of economic inequality needs to be the “big tent” for all these narrower, yet incredibly important issues. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know what comes next but I do know we all need to stay informed and engaged, at a minimum – a difficult task in this new age of alternative facts and disinformation.