My daughter and I decided to go to the Women’s March in D.C. almost as soon as we learned of its existence. But just a day or two later, I found out that plans for the event weren’t going smoothly. The bottom line was that the white women organizing it had been unintentionally insensitive to some issues concerning race. And even when changes were made—and more diverse organizers were hired—the bad taste lingered in many mouths. In the days leading up to the March, the press seemed to be giving the conflict almost as much coverage as the actual event, and that disturbed me. I couldn’t help wondering if I was pulling my teenage daughter out of school and bringing her on a four-day journey, only to attend a poorly attended, primarily white event.
That fear was quickly quelled on the morning of January 21st. The Metro train from our hotel in Alexandria into D.C. was jammed with people of various genders, ages, and ethnicities, most wearing pink pussyhats and carrying some of the most creative protest signs imaginable. But when we reached the L’Enfant subway stop, a very different type of fear arose in me. There were so many people trying to exit the station, that police had to regulate flow of people, and that particular Metro stop was temporarily shut down. Had I brought my kid to something too big? Would we be safe? The riots of the previous day came to mind, and I tried to figure out what we’d do if violence erupted.
Fortunately, there was no violence at the D.C. March, nor at most of the sister marches around the country and world, and my daughter and I were safely back in our hotel by early evening.
Was everything amazing? Well, that depends on how you define amazing, and also on your health and physical condition. As everyone knows by now, the marchers in D.C. numbered somewhere around half a million. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a large, packed crowd. Meeting up with friends was complicated, and, in several cases, impossible. Also, moving through such a dense crowd was only possible around the edges. The sound system was fairly good, and organizers did a great job setting up Jumbotrons, but even so, we only saw about a quarter of the program, if that. We stood in one spot for four or five hours, and if we’d had to use the bathroom, getting there would’ve been a challenge. Also, because of the size of the crowd, marching was extremely difficult, as much of the designated “march” area was filled with people.
On the other hand, we contributed to history (or HERstory). As we watched the TV news in the hotel that night and saw the magnitude of the crowd, we were thankful that we’d had the opportunity to be part of such a thing.
Also, the current administration may not be doing much for feminists or liberal causes these days, but Mr. Trump has made it clear that he pays attention to crowd size, so seeing images of the crowds at the various marches around the world must’ve made some sort of impression on him.
Furthermore, it’s also almost impossible to attend such an event without wanting to stay involved in causes you care about, and obviously, there will be plenty of opportunities for involvement in the immediate future. I admit that my participation in politics has waxed and waned quite a bit during my lifetime, but since the Women’s March, I’ve been doing what I can to contact legislators, share factual information in the face-to-face world and on social media, and stay up to date on what our government’s doing. And based on conversations with many people, almost everyone’s doing the same thing. The Women’s Marches awakened the activists in many Americans—both those who attended and those who saw them in the media—and I doubt there’s been a time in the last thirty years when more people have been involved in the political process.
Finally, on a personal note, the experience of going to D.C. and staying there for a few days allowed us to spend time in close quarters with people whose political viewpoints differed from ours. If you live in a swing state or an area where lots of left-wing/right-wing conflict exists, this may seem silly, but we live in a very liberal town, where very few people support Trump. (And those who do don’t normally admit it publicly.) For that reason, not only was Trump’s victory extra shocking for my family and me, but almost everyone I’ve spoken with since election day has been upset. But staying at a hotel in the area—especially on Inauguration Day—made it clear to us that we weren’t in the Boston area anymore. Guests in the hotel were a mix of Trump supporters (wearing pins and red hats), people there for the March (the pussyhats were a dead giveaway), and others there for business or tourism. And both nights that we were there, we attended the hotel’s evening reception. At first, we were a little nervous about how people might act, but what we experienced gave us some hope. Everyone acted respectfully, despite the fact that most guests were literally wearing their political sentiments on their heads. We held doors for each other, exchanged pleasantries, and made small talk in the elevator.
And so, my hope in America was renewed last weekend. Yes, at the Women’s March, but also at the hotel, where people were just people, taking time out of their regular lives to celebrate and work for what they believe in. It’s easy to get caught up in the actions of the current administration. And make no mistake: I’m strongly opposed to Trump and Bannon, and believe that if they’re not curtailed, America as we know it will be in grave danger. But I also have faith in the people who live here and love their country. I believe we have the ability to come together and preserve what’s truly important to us: a democracy that works. It won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible.
What a wonderful post, Mary! So glad you guys (safely!) made it to the DC march. We were at the Boston march – wow!! So incredible to be part of such an incredible experience. My heart was full as friends, strangers, everyone there was polite and kind and friendly and respectful. Voices were in unity and were heard. I too have faith, although I’m also angered and scared by what is going on… May love and freedom and good sense (!) prevail!
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Thanks so much, Lauren! I’m so glad you guys were able to get to Boston. It must’ve been a great experience to march with so many friends, as well as strangers. As you say, may love, freedom and GOOD SENSE prevail. We’ve got far too much at stake here.
Great essay Mary! I live in the most liberal city in the most liberal state and didn’t believe Trump would be possible but a few days before the election those red hats started showing up demonstrating on overpasses and I knew something bad was about to happen.
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Thanks, Jan. Seeing those red hats must’ve been scary. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone wearing one in my town. About a week before the election, a guy my husband knows (Trump supporter from NH) told my husband he believed the world would be stunned when a whole bunch of people who’d never voted before came out of the woodwork for Trump, and he would win. I laughed and told my husband the guy was nuts. Ha. Joke was on me. And everyone else, I guess.
Very cool experience! Your daughter will remember that you were part of a march that became a movement.
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Thanks, Susie! I sure hope so!
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It’s possible. It has to be possible, no matter how dim things look. I’m putting my money on the ACLU. I’m already dealing with burnout–so want to be in this for the long haul. I loved seeing so many young people in Washington. I saw two people not in my party who are close friends that day. It was thrilling. I watched for you.
I looked for you too, Elaine, but the crowd was so big! Wish we’d run into each other. As for burnout–yes. We need to pace ourselves, because who knows what might be coming next? And I love what the ACLU’s been doing in recent weeks. So grateful for them and for everyone (like you!) who’s willing to stand up for what they know is right.
Thanks for sharing your story. There is something about people w/differing views to come together. I attended a sister march and I was glad that there was no ‘politicizing’ in the message of the speakers.
As a black women in this America and the other one before Trump, I have now become Independent. It seems that too many liberals are visibly in the media advocating for others but step right over a poor, marginalized child right in these United States and many Conservatives spout the same hypocrisy that the left does only related to different issues.
I have long felt this country needed a revolution to push back on the corrupt criminals that come disguised as democrats or republicans. And, while trump is inept, ignorant, dangerous, etc., he represents a clear example of America’s dirty laundry & political corruption and the people’s true lack of power.
Conservatives who are Pro-Life until they see a war they love sending our sons, daughters, husband and wives off to. Liberals who will protest in the streets to demand we have no border walls but lock their doors at night…and ignore those legal citizens trapped in poverty in compton, camden, chicago and the like.
I’m glad the march took place….The Democrats, The GOP are both responsible for how it came to be.
Thank you, Tracey. I completely agree that Trump didn’t just show up and win. Both parties have caused major damage to our political system. And there’s so much corruption in both of them. I also find it terribly sad that some liberals preach about love and generosity while overlooking people right under their noses who need help. And the pro-life folks who promote war and hatred of all kinds…it’s mind boggling. So many Americans seem to have conditional ideals, which I think is an oxymoron. Maybe the silver lining in this hideous administration will be Americans really coming together and learning to understand each other.
Great post. I marched in NYC and it was crowded but peaceful as we shuffled along. (Hard to say “marched” when the sheer number of people in a small space made that impossible. Heh.)
Thank you!I saw pictures of the NYC march and it looked amazing. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be united in spirit with so many people.
So I was not at the Women’s March. I was in my study writing about a friend who died alone in a campesino house on the edge of town; the sort that buses pass and people think, “how can anyone live there?”. Of course, they are right. Houses like that give and then quickly take: shortage of water, cracked beans, barefooted lives. I wanted to be in Washington D.C. to watch the shadow fall, but I had to settle for that story. The last hours of my friend were administered by a woman he did not know. She should have been at the march, but it was not to be. She was thrust into seeing my friend leave this world due to circumstance. But I was told she did not shrink from her motherly duties. She brought him water and mopped his brow as if he was her own child. I must go and see her sometime. I must take her a piece of cake or a handful of fertile dirt, something to show my admiration for her, for all women. I am inhaling everything that you do Mary, I am here breathing all of this inside and I have run your image backwards in my mind and the steps reverse themselves and it is one year down, and then a second, and now a third and the neon lights are blinking at the hotel and then I can see my friend crossing the border with his box filled with silver and then the fishing and all of the Mexicans laughing as the thought of a wall rises over everything that is decent and good in this world. If I had come or the woman, we would have told you about these things as we marched along, in lock step, moving backward in time. Thanks. Duke
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Oh Duke, I’m so sorry about your friend. What a world. And that woman’s a hero for easing him into the next life as she did. Marches are all well and good, but so much more important are the things people–men and women– do to make life a little better for other humans, some they don’t even know. I know you know that, though. You’re a good one, Duke.