Why Did You March?
Last Saturday I marched with an energetic crowd of women, men, and children in my own little town. I felt overwhelmed after years of experiencing a tempest of hostility toward my different perspective, to march in solidarity with a diverse crowd united in concern and love for everyone. I watched as people were kind and considerate to others and picked up trash along the way. It was refreshing to be among people who care deeply about things that are important to me and important to the world we live in. I marched with friends who have come into my life lately as things have shifted so dramatically and beautifully for me. I marched with women who have shared with me their stories of shattering glass ceilings during the women’s movement of the seventies, stories of heartache and struggle to find themselves and their voices in a limiting patriarchal social structure. I sensed from everyone around me, that this march was about using that voice. Marching was a form of communication for us.
Afterward I was even more overwhelmed to see the pictures and the incredible number of people participating in the women’s march throughout the world. I thought of all of the peaceful protests that have ended in violence, even recent ones. I thought of the work and the struggle of women and men who fought for the right to vote, fought for civil rights, fought for women’s rights, fought for and are still fighting for the preservation of their sacred lands, fought to end wars, were beaten, gassed, shot at with rubber bullets and water cannons, and imprisoned. It is because of their work that so many people could gather peacefully and march; march to find solidarity, march to communicate their concerns, march to feel heard.
Throughout the weekend I had conversations with friends who told me that they didn’t understand, and asked me to explain why I marched. It felt good to be asked sincere questions about something that is important to me. It’s a basic human need to feel understood. I think being able to understand is also a major human need. When you don’t understand something you are left with insecurity. When you feel that insecurity, you can deal with it in one of two ways. You can put the blame on the person or group of people you don’t understand. By shaming and belittling them, you bring back the security blanket that surrounds your own worldview. The other option is to assume that you are missing something. That’s not easy. It doesn’t bring you immediate security. It’s hard to sit with and accept gaps in your understanding. It also takes work to ask and listen without viscerally reacting to a viewpoint that clashes with your own.
Despite some of the great conversations I had last weekend, I also felt the whip lash of shame and belittlement. “Those women are just whiny and hormonal.” “Trump is president so just get over it. Your silly march isn’t going to change that.” “This march was started by Hollywood and all those brainless liberals are just following the masses.” “It’s completely worthless to march when there isn’t even a cause. I don’t feel unequal so I don’t know why other women think they are treated unequal.” “If you feel unequal, do something about it instead of marching.”
If you have said or thought any of these things, is it possible that you are missing information? Somewhere around 5 million marchers felt deeply that equality has not yet been achieved in our country and in our world. The civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement among other movements are not complete. We still have so much work to do to ensure that every human being enjoys basic human rights, equal opportunities, health, and security. Five million people marched on Saturday because they are sincerely concerned about a US president who seems aloof to the plight of people who are different from him, and ill at ease with the beautiful diversity that makes America great, that makes the world great. A study of history validates our concerns because history shows us the damage that men like President Trump can do to a nation and to a global world.
Years ago I might not have understood the motivations behind this march either. My life has thrown me on a path to deeper understanding. The circumstances of my life forced me to see and understand experiences other than my own. The insecurity caused by my lack of understanding became so unbearable that I was forced to dig deeper for the information I lacked. My lens shifted to see what before I couldn’t see. I will be the first to admit that I am still missing information. I am committing myself to understanding the feelings and motivations of people I disagree with. I am committed to learning the difficult truths and sitting with the uncomfortable gaps in my information instead of blaming and shaming them away on someone else. Until we can all say to our friends or enemies, “I don’t understand, can you help me understand?” we will get nowhere. Until we are all able to look at history and see the sometimes atrocious truth about what is happening to people who live and breathe and love just like us, the suffering will continue. It is our responsibility to relieve that suffering, but we can’t do it if we close our eyes to it or if we mock people who have opened their eyes and are doing what they can.
When I came home from the march I posted a picture on Facebook with this quote by Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”