On our way home from last weekend’s Women’s March in Denver, my seventy-two year old grandmother told me that the political chaos of this year really did seem unprecedented.
That wasn’t really what I wanted to hear from someone who was born at the tail end of WWII, who’d lived through all the social and political upheaval of the last half-century. She spent the mid-sixties styling hair in Los Angeles, and the early seventies following her husband, a frugal and analytical CFO for an oil company, around the world. They lived in Norway, Ghana, Egypt, and Iran – just years before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. I don’t know that my grandmother was overtly political back then, but she’s smart, and quick to challenge ideas she doesn’t think are fair. Now, she’s saying she needs to be more active.
For her – for a lot of us, the march kicked off a new intention, a new necessity. On top of January’s usual rush of gym memberships and dating profiles, there is a heavy resolve in our country to redefine or reaffirm what we value. People who wanted a President Trump are anticipating the changes he promised. Those who did not are pledging to be vigilant, to show solidarity, to exercise resistance.
Vigilance – (noun) the quality of staying alert, watchful, woke
“Constant vigilance!” – Mad-Eye Moody, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Solidarity – (noun) the communication of unity and mutual support; the recognition that all people are better off when all people are better off
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” – Desmond Tutu
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson
Resistance – (noun) the refusal to accept or comply; a counteracting force
We left the lightrail stop in Littleton, Colorado at about 7:30, two hours before the scheduled start of the march. The train had one man for every ten women, one kid for every five. Someone mentioned Gloria Steinem, and how she’d challenged the people attending the marches that weekend to talk to the women around them, to make connections that would turn into action, and not just fill the pictures with another body, hat and sign.
We spoke to a few people in the crowd that day, but didn’t network the way leaders had suggested. My aunt and her eleven year old daughter, who live in the Denver area, also marched. We didn’t dress up or carry signs, and spent most of the morning watching. It took about an hour for people to trickle forward enough for the movement to reach the block where we were standing. There was something hesitant about the way we took in the scene, smiling at the slogans on other posters, filling space on the street.
I went to the women’s march to stand and listen. I wanted to be a factor of the millions that made headlines the next day. I wanted that number to echo the demand for respect.
Respect of the rights of all people to exist, to pursue happiness and security, and to make choices about their bodies.
Respect of the earth and all of its current and future habitants.
Respect of the facts and multiple perspectives that hold power accountable.
I know that there are politics loaded into these ideals, and there will always be moments of Us vs. But boiled down, all those divisions come from the same fundamental needs. Within that crowd, there were likely people who disagreed on reducing carbon emissions, on immigration, race relations, and abortion – at the very least they would have prioritized these issues differently. And yet by meeting in one place, we made a commitment to pay attention, to support each other, and to refuse to let fear or misinformation dissolve the rights of our neighbors. Vigilance, solidarity, resistance.
Over three million people showed up to march the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration in an event that was non-violent and inclusive. Twelve hundred turned out to the demonstration in Cheyenne. For many of them, marching was the first push in an effort to be more engaged.
That was last weekend.
If it ended there, the numbers would be nothing but a data point for future pundits -- a measuring stick for the mood of the country in 2017. But the year has begun – we are living in that mood now, and people seem to be following the commitments and connections they made.
As the new president unrolled his first wave of policies that will affect climate science, immigrants, and refugees, they showed up again. Women’s March organizers put together a program called “10 Actions for the first 100 Days” that will help people get started on other modes of action.
Unprecedented or not, now is the time to recognize our interdependence. What we do will impact others in our communities, our country, and our world, and vice versa. The environment is a part of that loop. It gives me hope to know that so many people are tuning in to these relationships.