“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
-Amendment I, United States Constitution
When my mom reached out about a week ago and said she was coming to Austin to participate in the Women’s March, I looked at my calendar and sighed. I wasn’t proud of this first reaction. With a new job and a week-long trip to San Francisco, I’d planned to spend Saturday the 21st recovering and resting. First world problems, one might say, and rightfully so. Despite my initial feelings of overwhelm at scheduling something else, I couldn’t stop thinking of my mom’s initial text: “I feel a real need to come to Austin to march on the 21st. Who’s with me?” And later, “I’m doing this.”
My mom is 69 years old. She lived through the civil rights protests of the 60’s. She raised two daughters in conservative East Texas, encouraging us both to live in Europe after high school, making financial sacrifices to send us abroad to help expand our world views. She took a stance against racist remarks, taught us about the importance of choice when it came to our bodies and our decisions, and emphasized the value of education. Well before many of our friends were “out,” she welcomed gay and Lesbian friends into her circle of friends, opening her home and heart without judgement. As social media began to expand my mom’s ability to share her opinions, I’ve seen her take a solid stance on a variety of political views, at times debating with friends who shared a more conservative opinion, but navigating it all with grace, even during times where she got a bit feisty.
As the march in Austin got closer, I began to realize how nothing could be more important than participating. My 13-year old daughter got on board. My sister, who has a phenomenally complex work schedule, found availability to join us. The morning of the march, my husband and stepfather drove us downtown to meet up with 40K plus others (give or take a few thousand), and together, we marched in a giant sea of peaceful protestors.
This was one of over 650+ peaceful protests that took place across the world yesterday. When I saw a Facebook meme referring to marches as “temper tantrums,” I nearly sat on the ground and kicked and screamed until I was exhausted with rage. I thought about holding my breath until I turned blue. I nearly stomped my pink Mizunos right off my feet.
Okay, I’m kidding.
I actually laughed, because to me, that is so sad it’s hilarious. A peaceful protest is not a temper tantrum; it is a constitutional right. I’ve said it before: this isn’t a game of picking amendments. Our constitutional right to peacefully assemble and exercise our freedom of speech is as important now as it’s been for the eight years that people have exercised their right to speak against the Obama administration. Debate can happen with dignity. Protests can take place without violence. It is never a temper tantrum to fight for marginalized communities; we will continue to stand up and voice our opinions.
As we marched among thousands upon thousands of people with different causes, it dawned on me that the power of the marches that took place across the world yesterday was that so many causes were represented all at once. That’s the perfect union that our world represents; a mixture of people wanting to live their lives in freedom.
You might notice that I have written this entire post without mentioning President Trump, because to me, yesterday’s march took place as a result of a protest against Trump, but the marches themselves were about so much more. As a Christian and a person who disagrees with Trump’s behavior and his actions, I have been struggling to reconcile how to respect the office while asking questions about how Trump landed in office in the first place. I know there are many people who voted for Trump as a vote against Hillary Clinton, and I believe that those people had a right to cast those votes. I have friends who casted those votes and while I’m perplexed by that, I still stand by the belief that they had that right, and I am glad that they voted.
Soon, I will begin reaching out to these friends and asking questions to better understand what policies they support that Trump represents. I want to ask friends who I know support the LQBTQ community but voted for a Trump/Pence ticket. I will sit down over coffee and have uncomfortable conversations, but I want to do it respectfully, even if it’s awkward and clunky.
I’m not fond of bashing the “other side,” even if the other side chooses to bash “us.” I’m so hippie-hippie in my thinking that I don’t even like Trump piñatas because to me, I wouldn’t want to see anyone bashing a Hilary Clinton piñata with a stick. I think piñatas of politicians are tacky, but that’s just me.
While I was thinking about how to conduct myself for the next four years, yesterday, my friend Caitlin wrote this post that just blew me away:
I didn’t think I’d be able to make it, but today I’m marching… because I want my two little boys to know what a strong, self-respecting, compassionate woman looks like. Since meeting Scott and creating our family, I’ve realized my one purpose in life is love and that’s what I teach my sons every day. Everyone deserves love, even Trump, and he probably needs it more than anyone. So today I stand for my beliefs and ask to be a beacon of universal love, and I send it out into the world.
Everyone deserves love, even Trump.
That is incredibly powerful to me. I know that for many, anger is the strongest reaction to President Trump and everything he represents. I have felt this anger, and I’ve felt a dark sense of dread when considering what may happen to our country under a Trump presidency. I also understand that as a white heterosexual female, it’s less likely that Trump’s policies will personally impact me unless I need a mammogram at Planned Parenthood or I happened to meet our new president and instead of shaking my hand, he made a move for my naughty bits, and then, president or not, I would kick him squarely in his.
I find so many of Trump’s words and actions offensive that it is going to be extremely difficult for me to accept his presidency. I understand that his actions have triggered intense outrage and fear and contempt, and I am not minimizing those reactions.
Still, I will continue to work locally and do what I can to impact change. I am going to try, from this day on, to focus my efforts on protecting the vulnerable and standing up for equality for all. When I am angry – and I know at times I will be – I will channel that anger by working harder so that people that I love and hold dear to my heart don’t have to be afraid.
Yesterday was an extremely powerful day, and I am so grateful that my mother came down to Austin and that she made marching a priority. There, we saw friends old and new, marching with daughters and husbands and sisters, and the tone of the entire day was one of respect and love and of peaceful resistance. I’m optimistic for our future, and though we will have a lot of work to do, I hope to do the work from a place of love. I hope we can take the power of yesterday’s movement and work together to form a more perfect union.