On Your Mark, Get Set...: Why I Marched
Making the decision to march last weekend was an easy one. To an outside observer, it might even have appeared impulsive. But the minute I heard there was going to be a Women’s March in Washington, DC, my only concern about joining was whether I would be able to swing the financial and temporal costs of such a journey. Once I heard there was going to be a local march here in Seattle, I was on board immediately. It was a "yes" so instinctive that it felt physical in its immediacy. My assent to this dissent came from my heart and my gut, leaving my brain to catch up as it could.
I understand why some supporters of progressive politics and opponents of our current president’s policies, beliefs, and actions did not support the Women’s March. I get that it’s largely political theater, and that the fact that so many white people are just now hitting the streets in protest rankles. The Women's Marches were a stunt. They were good stunts, yes, but these marches won't solve the problems our country is facing. They aren't going to oppose terrible cabinet appointments, or support a rigorous and independent press, or effect any real change. Marching was an action, sure, but it wasn't really effective action, per se.
But the march was a needed balm, regardless. Being among people who exuberantly believed as I do was somehow relaxing. I was able to let down my guard for the first time in weeks. Throwing myself into a crowd of thousands of like-minded protesters was a thrilling moment of collective recognition that we are not alone in our opposition to the current administration. It was so good, so healing to see a sea of people at the march I attended in Olympia* and to just be together with those who were equally as disappointed, frightened, and determined to speak out against unjust Trump policies as I am. It was good to see who my fellow travelers are and to walk with them in solidarity.
It was an amplified experience of one I'd had the night before at the Tacocat benefit for Shout Your Abortion at a small club in Seattle. That night, as the new President and his crew were making the rounds of inaugural balls, I crammed myself into a sweaty, airless basement to listen to angry, irreverent, fearless feminist rock and roll. It was glorious to feel together, joined, with the people in the room. Yes, we were all angry. Yes, we were all scared. And, yes, we were a we. We were not alone. We were still out. We were still moving. We were still capable of acting. And the next day, as we marched, we proved that.
But now that we have seen that we are not alone, now that we've proved that we're willing to sacrifice one Saturday to signify to ourselves and our country that we will not passively accept the unacceptable, it's time to get to work.
Because the marches are not the work. They were beautiful, they were uplifting, they were joyous and angry and wonderful, but they were not the work. Our hats were super cool, our signs really clever, and they are not the work.
The marches were not weapons of actual change, but rather starter pistols alerting that we're ready, we're set, and now it's time to go. The marches weren't a culmination of effort or a singular play at showing up; they were a promise to keep showing up, keep in the work, keep our hands dirty for as long as it takes to effect real change.
As Hercules Mulligan raps in Hamilton, "We're in the shit now, somebody's gotta shovel it."** And that means picking up the shovel, breathing through our mouths, and getting to work. For me, this means getting involved in Solidarity Sundays a growing national network of grassroots organizers who meet monthly to act in support for a variety of progressive, feminist causes. That's work.
It means that I've revised the Mean Girls edict "On Wednesdays we wear pink," to "on Wednesdays I call lawmakers." Every humpday since the Election, after dropping my younger Smartling off at Pre-K, I take my tea, my scripts, and my lists of phone numbers and settle in to make phone calls. That's work.
On November 6, 2018, less than a year from now, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as are 33 senate seats. Democratic efforts to secure those seats and provide some actual checks and balances to the Trump administration begins now. That's work. Voting in those elections and making sure that other like-minded citizens vote in those elections is work.
As Marilynne Robinson writes in "With President Trump, American Democracy Faces Its Greatest Test," "We have a chance to find out how real and deep American democracy is. We have to live out the ethos of free speech, press and assembly, of equal opportunity and equality before the law. The ethos that has been articulated in the best of American history has to be realized in what we say and do." We have to live out our beliefs. We have to realize our national ideals in the work of what we do.
It's time to clock in, America.
Ready to get to work? Me, too. It was great marching with my compatriots. And it will be even better rolling up our sleeves and working together.
Daunted? Me, too. Join in with Women's March organizers in performing 10 actions in 100 days. Listen to my friend Madge of Be Less Crazy talk you through the process of beginning your activism. Let Seattle councilmember Nick Licata teach you how to become a citizen activist. Sign up for Daily Action prompts, and then follow through. Read the Indivisible Guide, share it with others, and work together to get shit done.
Join me in showing up, in learning, in acting, in working for the change we seek.
Ready? Yes. Set? Yes.
Photo credit, my awesome elder Smartling, who is shockingly gifted at navigating a crowd of thousands.
*Yes, I know I live in Seattle, but the Seattle march was not the right fit for me. Had it been the only march available to participate in, I'd have gone to it. But the request for silence, the length of the route and size of the march that prohibited attending with my older daughter, and the difficulty in getting to and from the march rendered it less attractive. So I drove to Olympia, not far from my family of origin's home, and marched there with my older Smartling and a group of old friends. This was very much a "Yes, And" decision. Yes, I wanted to attend, and I would have dreaded the hugeness of the Seattle march and the conspicuousness of either making noise, or not making noise. Sometimes self-care means compromise. In this case, I was able to participate in the day's inspiring events and respect my needs simultaneously by attending a smaller march.
**You really didn't think we'd be getting through this essay without a Hamilton reference, did you?