Saturday, January 28, 2017

Women's March

I haven't written here about the Election of 2016, even though I've been deeply impacted by it emotionally and in my professional life.  I spent most of November and December in the first of the seven stages of grief, refusing to accept that the results of the election were real or that the people of this country would really allow a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, and admitted sexual predator to take office.  I held out hope that those in the Electoral College would rise to the challenge and do their duty to prevent someone like Trump from rising to the Presidency.  But, of course, he was elected and the electors in the electoral college did vote him into office and, last week, millions around the world sat in horror watching his inauguration and fearing at what was to come next.

About a week after the Election, despite the fact that I was still desperately living in my more comfortable state of denial, I bought tickets for all of us (except Alden) to go to the Women's March in Washington D.C.  The march was proposed almost immediately after the election and quickly started to gain traction. It felt like we had to be there, standing in solidarity with people from around the globe to demonstrate to the incoming administration that we would fight.  We would resist.  We would not accept policy aimed at discriminating, denying women's rights, or rolling back the progress we'd made towards civil rights, environmental protections, expansion of health care options, or any number of other progressive reforms.  Amy, Eric's sister, also bought a ticket.  A few weeks later, we realized Eric had a conflict that weekend (training this year's group of river advocates -- which is its own form of progressive protest), so Kai and I decided it would be a girls' weekend, and were set to meet up with Amy, Kate, Becca. 

The trip out to D.C. was its own form of inspiration.  We flew out early in the morning the day before the march (also known as Inauguration Day... or has Trump has now dubbed it, national patriotic observance day... which just makes me want to puke all over my keyboard).  Anyway, we shielded ourselves from having to watch much of what was transpiring below by spending the day in the air; although, we had two layovers, so we did get a fair bit of time in airports.  I travel a LOT.  I'm in airports multiple weeks out of every month and have been for the last 7 years.  Traveling that Friday was like no other.  The airports were packed with women. And I knew, looking around me, that all of these people were headed the same place we were.  On our first flight, there were more than a dozen people taking the same route we were, through Denver and Columbus to D.C.  That never happens -- that a dozen people are taking the same crazy, two layover route across the country.  On our last flight, from Columbus, OH to D.C., the whole plane was filled with women going to the march.  I was wearing my "Nasty Woman" t-shirt, and as I boarded the plane the ticket agent looked at my shirt and then shouted to the line of women behind me, "how many people boarding this flight are nasty women?" and the terminal erupted in cheers.  Solidarity.  Resistance.  We were going to fight.  we were going to prove that we would not be held back.

Kai was pretty quiet most of the trip across the country.  She was taking it all in.  That night, we met up with Amy and bought supplies to make posters for the march the next day. Kai's signs said, "Women Matter" and "Keep Up the Fight".  Mine said, "Safety Nets Not Walls" and "Not My President."  Amy's said, "No One is Illegal" and "Stronger Together".  We cried a bit while making the signs and expressed fear at the administration to come.  Kai took it all in quietly.  We talked about some of the things Trump had proposed and some of the comments he had made about women.  But, it was hard to really explain the gravity of the situation to her. 

The next morning, we headed to the march fairly early.  It took us a long time to get on the metro -- the line to get tickets was out of the station.  And then, once we got off the metro at Union Station, it took about 30 minutes to exit because the line of people trying to get out of the station was so long.  Eventually, they just opened the gates and let everyone flood out without paying.  We met up with Kate, Becca and their friends in Union Station for breakfast.  We tried to find a bathroom to use before heading to the rally site, but the lines at Union Station were around the building.  We decided we could go without a bathroom for the day, and headed out to go to the rally point.

In usual circumstances, it would have been about a 15 minute walk at most.  It took us about an hour to get to the staging area, and we ended up behind the stage in a mass of people.  The march organizers were trying to route people to the blocks around the stage, but there were so many people that we were all just stuck.  An immobile wall of resistance. Everyone was so friendly.  Cupcakes were passed around.  No one was pushing.  We were there for each other.  People spoke of where they came from and what motivated them to come.  The crowd moved slowly together and, eventually, we made it to the corner of the block where we could turn and start walking parallel to the mall.  We had to go about 13 blocks from the stage before we could even hope to get onto the mall and ended up in a crowd packed behind one of the screens.  We couldn't see the screen.  We couldn't hear the speakers.  We couldn't move.  Kailey was amazed at the number of people on all sides.  She sat atop Kate's shoulders taking it all in.  At one point, someone started shouting, "little blonde girl! little blonde girl!"  we realized they were talking to Kai -- she wanted to know if the crowd was moving at all.  It wasn't.  We were a unified block.  There was some anxiousness to march and to move.  The same anxiousness that was consuming all of us to do SOMETHING.  To make this whole thing better.  But, it wasn't your typical crowd.  There was no irritation or annoyance at the crowd itself.  We were all taking solace in the crowd even as we willed the crowd to move a bit (just so we could stretch a leg or have a bit more air).  We were stuck for about two hours in that mass of people before the last speaker finally announced we would be marching.  The entire march route was filled in, but eventually those that were at the end moved into other areas so that the rest of the crowd behind them could fill in.  Eventually we began to move.  And chant. 

"We need a leader not a creepy tweeter"
"This is what democracy looks like"
"When women's rights are under attack, what do you do? Stand up, Fight Back!"
"Trump thinks he runs this town, pussy's going to shut him down"

The signs were so creative:

"Super callow fragile ego Trump you are atrocious"
"We fucked up bigly"
"A woman's place is in the resistance"
"WTF adults!"

It was great marching with Kai.  She isn't a chanter, but she also never complained.  She didn't whine.  She didn't ask to go home.  She was there.  She was present.  She took it in.  I think she lacked context to understand WHY so many people were so upset, but she got that this was a very big deal.  And that we were together in this -- we were with lots (and LOTS and LOTS) of other people who cared as much as we did.

The next day, I woke up at 6:30 AM to get us tickets to the National Museum of African American History.  It just opened in September and while free to get into, was so popular that they had instituted a system of releasing tickets for the day online.  They were gone in 4 minutes -- but I got 4 for our group.  Kate got some, too (with a bit of extra drama thrown in -- 4 minutes!)  So, that afternoon, we got to go to the museum that gave Kai the context of what all of this meant and why so many people were so angry and so resistant -- some context about what, exactly, we were resisting. 

The museum is intense.  Kai said, "my head is exploding."  She couldn't comprehend that people had treated other PEOPLE so cruelly.  She asked if children and babies had also been tortured.  She asked how deeply the cuts went when people were whipped.  She said, "I'm mad at myself for being white."  She said, "I want to beat myself up."  She asked how the black people around us must feel.  She asked if they were scared . She asked if they trusted us.  She was inspired by Harriet Tubman and wanted to know more about her.  She wanted to know if people were still slaves today.  She steeled herself to stand up and fight for others -- completing questions in an interactive exhibit to hypothesize about what she would have done confronted with some of the injustices of the times. 

It was an amazing weekend.  Followed by a terrible week, with Trump signing numerous executive orders that threaten the very rights we had stood up for over the weekend.  I've been talking to Kai every day about what Trump is doing and what others are doing to try to stop him.  We've been discussing the fight ahead.

When she got back to school on Tuesday, she spent both of her recesses and her study hall writing an essay that she titled, "All About Racism".  It says:

"In the 1600s white people came and took black people away from their homes and made them slaves.  The white people made them work with chains on.  Lots of people jumped off the boat into shark infested waters.  They thought that if they died, they would go back to where they came from.  They also thought dying was better than being slaves.

"When the slaves got there, they stood on a giant rick and people would say how much money they would pay for the slave.  Then the white people tied their hands together and gave them a very bad burn.  So that people know that the slave is theirs.  They also tied them by the hands dangling from a tree branch and started whipping them.  The whips cut deep.  Also if they tried to escape and they got caught they would be killed.

"But there was one amazing person who was named Harriet Tubman. She escaped without being caught to the North where she was free. But, she came back and sacrificed herself for her family.  Then she came back lots more times and rescued hundreds of people from slavery.  The way she didn't get caught was the underground railroad.  It wasn't underground or a railroad.  It is just a path with caves, holes, and sometimes people would carry them by wagon.  The people trying to find them had to not be fooled.  When the black people were escaping, they rested during the day and ran at night.

"The police sent dogs to go and catch the black people and sometimes they would bite.  If the black people got caught, they would be executed.  After the white people executed them, they would hang the bodies in a tree so that when the black people saw them they would remember that if you ran away and got caught, this will happen to you.

"Also babies were ripped out of mom's arms.  They were being ripped out of mom's arms because they were being made slaves too.  And still people have slaves today but it is not as bad.  the people back then were living in shacks and the slaves today are still living in shacks.  I feel that we should help. 

I want to help by speaking up.  I would say "just because their black doesn't mean that they are not people.  They are still people.  You don't own them.  Black people have the right to do what white people can do.  They can sit in the front of buses.  They can have the same drinking fountain.  They can do what they want to do." 

We've been reading books about Harriet Tubman and other civil rights leaders since coming home.  It's going to be a long 2 years until midterm elections -- but, instead of getting depressed and feeling helpless, I am resolved to help to stave off the worst of what's coming through my own work and by building awareness among the next generation of leaders.. namely, Kai. 

Resist!  Solidarity!  Justice!

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