I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for over a week, but sometimes it has felt too overwhelming to sit down and do it. I’ve made a list of things I wanted to say in it, an outline; I’ve composed fragments of it in my head while walking down the street or brushing my teeth. But I haven’t actually written it yet because there’s just too much to say.
So I’m going to try and do this a piece at a time, because I’m coming to understand that right now, a piece at a time is the best way for me to respond to life.
On January 21st, I marched.
For the first time that I can remember, I marched in protest. With my friends and with some of our daughters. I unexpectedly saw more friends there, even in a crowd of 22,000 people, and quite a few of my colleagues. The Houston march was organized in the space of about ten days and was reported to be the fastest growing Sister March; the police chief said at the rally we were the largest group ever to assemble in front of City Hall. These are all fine statistics.
What matters most to me is that I marched in support of women’s rights (which are human rights), that I showed my eleven-year-old daughter through example that we matter, and that I demonstrated how we must stand up for ourselves because we deserve to be stood up for. These are lessons I learned much later in life than she is learning them, and that’s a significant generational improvement.
Heather over at Becoming Cliché wrote a marvelous post about why she was marching in D.C. Many of the reasons she was motivated to extend herself far beyond her comfort zone are ones I share, and I enthusiastically encourage you to read her list. (Go do it. I’ll wait here.) But mainly I marched because life changed for me the night of the election. I no longer had faith not just in polls, but in the functioning of society.
This, I recognized soon after, was an exaggerated feeling. To be blunt, it was the prescribed functioning of our democratic system — i.e. the electoral college — that put his orange self into the White House in the first place.
But my life had suddenly become divided into the time before, when I was mostly happy, and the time after, when I was in abject despair. In the days after the election, I felt even more under threat, personal as well as existential, than I ever have before, and that’s saying something. And still now, the news is so extraordinary every day, it’s kind of unbelievable to me that the new prez is even a real person. I mean, who acts like this? For Pete’s sake.
I must sound sheltered. I know that many people have suffered far worse than I have throughout my life, and my heart goes out to them. I must sound ridiculous. Yet everything feels ridiculous.
Or at least it did, until I marched, and then I began to understand that action dispels fear, at least to a serviceable extent. I began to understand that, as one of the characters in the novel I’m trying to finish editing keeps hearing, there is a path out of the shadows.
And that path began with 22,000 of my closest friends, a veritable rainbow of all different kinds of people in this most internationally diverse city in the country, traveling the roads with me in peaceful protest and festive solidarity. We marched for common human decency, against the election of someone who brags about sexual assault, who refuses to play by the rules (much less tradition), who doesn’t show respect for basically anyone who isn’t his daughter or a white supremacist or a dictator, who seems bent on starting another unnecessary war just to ensure he can stay in power, and whose sense of ego and entitlement make him a wretchedly unfunny cartoon.
And that path we started on doesn’t end at City Hall on January 21st.
Stay tuned, campers. We’re coming into the light.