(Maybe you don't agree with me for doing so, but I hope you'll stay with me through this story. Because my thoughts on the march is complicated. Maybe yours are, too.)
I'd packed my phone, an extra battery, $100 in cash (in case I got arrested, because that ACLU recommends it), maps, information from the ACLU, some granola bars, tissues, a bandana, and health insurance cards. I had a lunchbox with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrot sticks and chocolate milk for the ride home. I carried a sign to which I'd given a lot of thought. It didn't say anything about the new administration, because I don't want to stoop to name-calling; it said, simply, "not going back." Because I refuse to return to a time before VAWA grants, before better women's health care, before civil rights, before Title IX improved the way in which we deal with victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
I'd had some worrisome thoughts the night before, when my daughter, sobbing, told me not to leave. Though I didn't have any plan for civil disobedience, I considered what it might be like to get arrested, or tear gassed, or worse. I worried that I'd be stuck in a crowd, unable to get back to my bus in time. But I'd kissed my children goodbye that morning as they slept, smelling sweet and drowsy, and decided that it would all be OK, that I'd be in good company, and that if I got left behind, I could figure out how to get home.
Sometime close to 7 am, we passed the first large rest stop, and someone on the bus started cheering. I woke, startled, and looked out at a virtual sea of buses parked at the rest stop. It was, in a word, astonishing; it was the first thing that made me cry that morning.
In Delaware, we got stuck in traffic, one of our buses leaked antifreeze, and we wondered if we'd make it. I started talking to the teenagers. "Do you think there will be any Trump supporters?" they asked. "Maybe," I said. "Probably not a lot, but let's think about it this way: maybe someone voted for him for economic reasons, but wants to be heard on an issue related to women's health care. Or the Violence Against Women Act. I would hope they would be welcome. For me, this event is about reminding our representatives that they work for us." They agreed, nodding thoughtfully.
Finally, at nearly 11 am, we pulled into RFK Stadium. That, too, was a powerful moment, a moment in which I got a sense of collectivity, of coming together: a sea of buses, as far as the eye could see, crossing over the bridges from every direction. One of the women in a seat in front of me handed around a bag of pink fleece hats (not exactly pussy hats) that a friend had made, because she wanted to come, and couldn't. I took one, and wore it, not because I wanted a pussy hat -- I'm not certain I feel I can be taken seriously in a pink hat with cat ears, though I do appreciate the humor, which is much needed -- but because I wanted to carry another woman with me. Because that's what I was there for: for women who might not have as much of a voice as I do, who might not be as fortunate as I am. For my friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a month ago and was able to get treated while it was still Stage 1. For my friend who goes to PP for mammograms because she can't afford them otherwise. For friends who have been survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. For friends who are raising children with a same-sex partner. For colleagues with PhDs who have been stopped and frisked on the commute home because they're Black. For my first generation and low income college students, some of whom come from families who voted for the new administration, and who deserve elementary and high schools that are held accountable for their students, and that support students with learning disabilities.
We decided to walk, instead of taking the metro, and though we dispersed quickly, one of the women on the bus stuck with me; we decided to be "buddies" for the day. Neither one of us seemed to be extroverts, but we managed to make conversation about our workplaces (she implements the ACA), children, college, choices, women's experiences, and commentary on the witty, thoughtful, diverse protest signs. Which was the sort of thing that happened all day: overhearing conversations about people who were from somewhere else, but shared some hope (or fear) for the next four years.
Just past the Capitol, we caught our first glimpse of the crowd, which stretched in every direction as far as we could see. It was hard to get a sense of scale from the middle of it, and wherever we went after a certain point, it was clear we weren't going anywhere.
By 1 p.m., we'd managed to make our way close to the stage and march starting point, and talked with people around us, trying to figure out what was going to happen when. We chatted with a group of grannies from Portland, two Latinx women from New York who hadn't told their mother where they were going (and finally caved while we where there, their mother showering us all in love in Spanish), a woman from New York who pointed out how strange it was that we were all standing so close together and weren't speaking (here we are, she said, all touching each other, and we'll never be that close again, and I don't even know your name).
At some point it became clear that the organizers had been overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and had to rethink their plans for the march because the entire route had been clogged. I was part of this historic moment, I thought.
Finally, close to 2:30, the crowd started to move, in four different directions. We marched. Back towards the Capitol, turning the corner on to Constitution, past the Newseum, which sported a large sign celebrating First Amendment rights. We chanted: "Tell me what democracy looks like ... THIS is what democracy looks like!" As it got closer to 3:15, we stopped and watched the march for a while from the sidelines, watched as police vans drove through with lights flashing and sirens wailing, feeling slightly worried when so many of them came by, parting the crowd, but breathing a sigh of relief as they moved on without stopping. By 3:30, we had to turn around, because we had to leave time to get back to the bus, which was leaving at 5. I was sorry to leave, worried that perhaps too many of us would have to go early, that the numbers would dwindle and the facts about our attendance would be distorted. As we walked back to the bus, we thanked every police person and marshal and National Guard member, and they waved us on, thanking us for coming, wishing us safe travels home.
As empowering as it was to be there in a sea of people, mostly women but also some men, there were some things that gave -- and still give -- me pause.
I kept my mouth shut, for example, when people started chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, D-- T-- has got to go." Realistically, that's pretty unlikely, and even if it did happen, we have a Vice President and Speaker of the House that share his politics and ideology, even if they don't (though they probably do) share what I view as his unforgivable misogyny. t's not as simple as impeachment, even if he didn't get win popular vote. And beyond that, I'm having a hard time getting on board with alienating the people who did vote for him who could work together with us for the things we both care about. I'm not down for the name-calling that many people on "my side" are engaging in. Madonna, for example, really didn't need to say what she said on stage, even if she was protected from saying it by the First Amendment. One of my acquaintances from a mom's group from years ago--a devout evangelical Christian who was abused by her first husband and a recipient of assistance from the VAWA grants--didn't vote but has been watching the media coverage unfold, and is appalled by what she sees as action before the new administration is "given a chance." When I try to explain to her that his first chance is his cabinet selections, and that alone is worrisome, she pulls away. I feel like I need to focus on the issues (when I mentioned VAWA and Title IX, for example, she got interested and we had a good conversation), instead of starting with demonization. The more we're divided, the easier it will be for them to create a parallel version of reality. From a viral post that's making the rounds:
Increasing the separation between Trump's base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong—that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong—they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here—likely to pay off—is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as "fake news" (because otherwise they'd be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)Another thing that became pretty obvious during the march was my white woman's privilege. When I bought the pink poster paper for my sign, I said something to the cashier, who was Black, along the lines of "maybe this will get me arrested." I immediately regretted it as soon as the words were out of my mouth and realized, as she looked at me, that she probably thought I was crazy. White women in LL Bean winter coats with tortoise shell glasses don't get arrested. The march was an unprecedented crowd of people with no arrests, kindness and civility. It was incredibly diverse, but it was largely white. Imagine what would have happened if that many Black women showed up in one space? The police would have come in riot gear, not in yellow vests. Our bags would have been searched. We would have been stopped. Many of us would have been arrested, jailed, beaten.
The march also left a huge mess. Signs were discarded both at the White House and Washington Monument, and garbage heaped out of the cans and along the streets. I carried everything out that I carried in to DC that day, with the exception of a few small granola bar wrappers that I threw in a trash can that wasn't yet full. A little attentiveness could have made a big difference.
And finally, along those lines, while I'm deeply grateful for all of the women who showed up this weekend, I hope that they realize we all need to keep showing up. And calling. But mostly showing up. And not just where we can wear our pink hats, or talk politely with our senators, but at Black Lives Matter marches, where darker colored bodies are vulnerable, and where the message may not be ours, but where if we are really serious about solidarity, I hope that we can stand in solidarity, putting our bodies on the line, too. And at LGBTQIA events where trans bodies are targets. And in spaces where we can talk with people who voted differently about the things we probably both care about.
Coalition building is slow. If the actions of the past 48 hours are any indication, there is much to do. But I'm glad I went. It was a good first step to remind us all that we live in a democracy, and we have a right to speak. And it was powerful to do so with so many other people, not just in D.C., but all over the country, and all over the world. Together, may we gather the fuel we need for the longer march towards the future that belongs, in the end, to all of us.
(adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe here)
3/4 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
2 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. light brown sugar
3 T. sugar
1/4 c. pumpkin
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. Uncle Sam's cereal
1/3 c. raisins
1/3 c. chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Place rack in center of oven (more or less) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Combine butter, oil and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, scraping down sides if necessary, until sugars have dissolved and mixture is light in color, about 1 minute. Add egg, pumpkin puree and vanilla and beat an additional 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and beat an additional 30 seconds. Add oats, flakes, raisins and walnuts and mix over low speed just until incorporated. Dough will be slightly sticky and less cohesive than traditional cookie dough.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using between 3 to 4 T. of batter, form a ball and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining batter, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Wet hands and use palm of hand to flatten cookies until about 1/4-inch thick. Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are fragrant but still soft. Let cookies cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.