I woke up this Saturday morning in despair. Just one week earlier, I had stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of Americans on Washington, for the Women’s March, feeling lifted by the energy and heartened by the sheer numbers of voices raised in unison across the globe. But after a mere 7 days, it almost felt like it had never even happened—and it certainly felt to me, that morning, that it hadn’t really mattered. The rapid fire news cycle, the outrageous executive orders, the news of the DAPL being back on the table, the cabinet appointments still looming large—dizzied my mind, clouded my thoughts, and weighed heavy on my heart. I found it difficult to give the usual attention I devote to my work. And, although my body was present with my family, my mind had been far far away. Saturday morning, I lost it for a little minute. At my husband’s urging, I put the phone away for the day, and committed to being present with my family for the weekend. We turned on some tunes, baked a little, and decided that we would take some real-time action as a family & attend a local post-card writing party. The four of us piled into the car and headed to the local gathering place, with varied levels of enthusiasm. But, upon entrance all of our sprits were lifted.
When we walked in, the place was buzzing with nearly a hundred of our neighbors, already busily addressing post cards to our elected officials. My kids saw friends, made posters, sampled the snacks, and got to witness political action at the grassroots. We tackled a few stacks of post cards, while chatting with folks from the community that were seated around our table.
I was starting to see that the marching had mattered after all. For, this event had been directly inspired by the Women’s March itself—the first of “10 Actions for the First Hundred Days”.
When we got home from the post card party, and checked FB we realized that the airports were filling up with protesters, standing united against the unconstitutional Executive Order, banning of refugees from entering this country. And, my hope was once again restored, by the demonstration of people putting their bodies where there values are. Would they have come out in such great numbers without our march last week? We can't know for sure. But, what had seemed irrelevant just that morning, seemed to have renewed meaning.
So, before it slips away from my grasp, and the relevance gets lost in the onslaught of constant political chaos, let me tell you a little bit about what it felt like to put my body where my values are, and for the first time exercise my first amendment right of peaceful protest.
It still feels like it could have been a dream—the hoards of people quietly making their way through the DC metro system with eyes wide, surveying the faces of those who would be marching beside them.
—The ethereal sound floating over the speakers, sung notes sustained longer than one could imagine, so long that any melody was just beyond the mind’s grasp—the the sea of pink hats and raised signs filling the streets of Washington D.C. to bursting.
—The signs so varied in their message and design, our eyes hungry to decode them all.
—The raised voice of Gloria Steinem whose words washed over us like a blessing from the feminist pioneers who have come before—Michael Moore’s practical call to action which having gone on a moment too long was cut off by the brazen and bold poem read by a fierce warrior woman named Ashley Judd—the 5 of us snaking through the crowds like a daisy chain, making sure to maintain eye contact with anyone who broke the chain & fell behind, on our recon mission for the port-a-pot queue.
—The misty clouds enveloping the monument on one end of the mall and shrouding the capital on the other.
—It was surreal on that day, like the unfolding of a dream where you are the watcher and the player all at the same time.
We made our way back into the crowd, after spending some time on the mall, and found ourselves in the courtyard of behind the Smithsonian. There, we waited for the opportunity to rejoin the crowd on Independence Avenue. We were ready to march, and yet the crowd was locked in place. We could still hear the voices coming from the stage speakers. One voice told us that we would be marching soon, shortly followed by the voice of another woman who told us that due to the enormity of the crowds, there was nowhere to march. We became the Women’s Stand on Washington for the next little while. And, then we got antsy. One member of our group spotted some people sitting atop a wall on the other side of a fence, nearby where we were standing. We decided to make our move. She and I, emboldened by action, decided to climb the chain link fence & scale the wall on the other side. Punk Rock, right? We jumped on the fence, and quickly realized that it was only held together by a plastic rip stop band, and that the fence itself was not up to supporting our weight. At the same time, another gal from our group called our names, and brought us back to our senses. There was a 2 foot gap in the fence, that was plenty big enough for us to walk easily through. So, jumped down, laughed at ourselves, and walked on through. Then came the obstacle of climbing onto the wall itself, which was beyond a series of glass barriers on the roof of the small building which we were attempting to scale. We did not want to damage any property, or break any laws, but we did want a chance to see the size of the crowds from a vantage higher vantage point. Two of my friends climbed up before I did. I was having second thoughts when the metal bars over the glass windows were clearly not meant to bear weight. Then my friend instructed me to crawl on all fours. With that, I was up in a flash. The crowd was wider than the eye could see.
There were people in every direction, as there had been in every place we had been up till this point—more people than I could have ever imagined in one place at one time. It was a sea of pink, joyful and buzzing, even after hours of standing for the rally and in anticipation of the march at hand. The energy was bigger than anything I have ever experienced. The security guard at the Smithsonian pleaded with us gently to get down off the wall. But, for that moment, we were not in any hurry. The rest of our group had made it around to the front of where we were perched, and suddenly the crowd started moving. It was time to march. And, right as we got going, Madonna’s voice echoed through the streets of Washington. Express Yourself was the song on our lips, and as we marched, we sang—eyes bright, hearts open, in awe of what was going on around us, and that we were really there in that moment, making history. We passed two police officers who were standing on top of their vehicle dancing & singing along. They joined us celebrating. Their support and excitement deepened our resolve. And then the chanting started. While I marched and chanted, I tried my best to make a mental list of all of the reasons that I put my body where my values were on that day. I marched for women: who make life and care for it—to have autonomy over our bodies & healthcare choices—for sex-ed, access to affordable birth control, and for access to safe and legal abortion.
I marched for equal pay for equal work, and to fight for the rights of women of color who make less on the man’s dollar, than I do, as a white woman.
I marched because #BlackLivesMatter and deserve protection from harm at the hands of police—because black mothers are losing their sons. I grieve beside them, and know that is this problem is one that we all need to dig deeper within ourselves to solve together.
I marched for Mother Earth and clear air, clean drinking water, clean oceans, rivers, and streams, and a planet that can remain vital for generations to come.
I marched for my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, for those who have families and for those who do not. I marched to protect marriage rights under the law for all Americans, no matter who they love. I marched for healthcare, for women, for families, for people like my mother with pre-existing conditions, and for my sister who was uninsured before the availability of the ACA.
I marched because we are a nation of immigrants, and I value diversity as one our nation's great strengths.
I marched for every woman and girl that has & will face sexism, discrimination, sexual violence or aggression, or misogyny.
And, I marched because I wanted to be an example for my children. I want them to see first hand what it means to go out of your way to stand up for what you believe in and to fight for what’s right, even when/especially when it’s hard. After that phenomenal event, I participated in a quieter act of rebellion that felt to me like just as defiant as marching down the streets of Washington D.C. chanting this call & response: “Show me what democracy looks like!" "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!".
I got under the covers, in front of the tv with two women--one with whom I have been friends for 20 years, the other of whom I have just met but have long admired--with a take out container of spaghetti on my lap, and a glass of wine in my hand. We flipped between the recent remake of Beaches, Titanic, a very confusing Jody Foster space movie (Contact), and Frozen. We talked, laughed, and processed what we had just been through together. I had not had that kind of girl time in a very long time. It felt sacred & sustaining--just like it did to exercise my first amendment rights through freedom of expression, speech, and peaceful protest.
With love and gratitude, Stephanie