I've taken part in protests before, but taking part in the Women's March in NYC this past Saturday was personal. In the lead up to Trump being sworn in, I had become prematurely rattled courtesy of the heavy handed religious rhetoric. Trump followed this up himself by using such language as "America first" and "God will protect us." In a letter to the American scientist Alexander Humboldt, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." I found Trump's holier-than-thou tone during his speech disconcerting. While I am in full support of helping my fellow Americans, I don't think retreating into isolationism is the best policy. Nor, do I think an exclusive diet of extreme nationalism is a healthy choice. Saturday simply couldn't come fast enough! Howard Zinn famously said, "Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” Barbara Ehrenreich expressed the same sentiment but with a more powerful punch, "No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.”
When Saturday afternoon rolled around, I enthusiastically hopped onto the subway and smiled at people, who were carrying signs and/or dressed in pink, which was a clear giveaway that we were heading to the same place. One of the most memorable moments of the march came when a bunch of burly men began chanting, "Your body..." and women responded by chanting, "Our choice!" I felt this incredibly supportive current moving back and forth between men and women, which is something I've never experienced at previous protests. I saw many proud fathers, adorned in pink hats, walking beside their young daughters. One man had glitter in place of eye black, and a little girl exclaimed, "Oh! I love your glitter." At which point he offered her some. Families were out in full force, and they lead their children in chants like, "Women's rights are human rights!," "We, the people, will never be defeated," and "This is what democracy looks like." Talk about having an educational experience outside the classroom! An elderly man with scruffy white hair and a weathered face stood beside his wife holding a sign that said, "Feminism is back by popular demand." Democracy demands dissent because the alternative would be complicit silence, and we were far from silent on Saturday. I hope the momentum that began on Saturday continues to grow. As one protestor marching beside me said, "Heck, climate change is gonna be great for year round protests."
I've always loathed the word community because I've always felt that I'm an outsider. Whether I was a child, a tween, a teen, a young adult or a middle-aged woman, I've always studied my environment and social settings with an anthropologist's eye and kept to the periphery. Yet, taking part in the Women's March caused me to forgo this sense of isolation and merge with a friendly community that was championing the same rights as me. Life has a funny way of spiraling in lessons when you least expect it! I was in awe when I returned home and saw the news coverage of protests both at home and abroad. To see people in the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Kenya, and South Africa adding their voices to ours cracked my heart open. Tears began to flow, and I didn't cut them off or wipe them away. I gave myself over to them and, in doing so, the tension, bitterness, frustration, and anger that had been building up over the past couple months began to soften. I continued to watch the news footage of the Women's Marches taking place around the world and felt what I've always known to be true...Love trumps hate.
As promised, my next post will discuss the scientific connection between our health and our positive relationships. Remember the Illness vs Wellness post? This couldn't come at a better time!