*Here’s my YouTube video inspired by the march! Ignore the fact that my eyes sort of roam around the room…*
Woah, people in cafés talk about really personal things, really loudly. Really, really personal things. Really, really loudly. There is a mom and her son’s girlfriend talking about their unhealthy, awkward relationship. There are kids with their faces covered in chocolate whining that they need to use the bathroom. There’s a gaggle of women in their twenties searching on their phones for how to avoid government surveillance and deal with their periods during marches. Again, really, really personal. Really, really loudly.
I am writing this a week or so after I left for the Women’s March in Washington, DC, and it seems important that I emulate that blind sort of bravery to be loud and personal. It feels like a lot of things have happened since January twenty-first (the immigration ban? the EPA? the freaking wall?), and so to stay sane and stave off hopelessness, I wanted to reflect upon the day in which I donned a pink, cat-eared hat and made my voice heard.
I made about twelve packing lists to prepare myself for the march. Would I have enough food? What boots should I wear? How many names should I scribble on my arm in Sharpie? A week before, I had the requisite, “I don’t know if I should be doing this….” anxiety, especially as my health condition can make lack of sleep dangerous. But by Thursday, I was determined to go and to do it right. I brought my crappy ukulele and Rise Up Singing, two granola bars and some melatonin. I was ready for whatever the marching gods threw at me.
When I left with a busload of women (and one man!) on Friday evening, pink hats of all shades and patterns festooned the already salt-and-pepper heads. Honestly, just that was moving! (I feel like I’ve really become an adult when the diversity of hat patterns brings me close to tears.) We were individuals that made up an empowered, excited group—there for different reasons, but committed to the same ultimate goal.
So why was I marching? Why was I willing to risk the consequences and board a bus headed for the unknown? Because it was something I could do in the face of overwhelming anxiety. On one level, marching was a straightforward, bite-size solution. It was something concrete, a way for my body to align with my mind and heart. I was marching because I am taking this political moment really, really personally, and I am trying to do it really, really loudly. I was searching for solidarity and hope, and I found it in every single cat-inspired sign and chant.
Still, it is easy to say that I was marching for love and peace in the face of hate and fear. It is harder to think about what I hate and what I fear. I am trying to be loud and curious—loud and loving. But how? Really, I want to know. How?? Because love and unity are concepts that I think everyone in the world wants to embody. People across the country of all political persuasions believe in uniting for a common cause.
We just need to ask ourselves what it is we want to unite over.
At the march, I met up with one of my dearest friends from college. We navigated the crowds with our elbows linked and laughed at the signs, half of which seemed to mention that infamous cat euphemism. When we couldn’t hear any of the rally, we bailed and went to Subway for lunch, where I waited thirty minutes to use the bathroom and tried to surreptitiously stuff my homemade turkey and avocado sandwich into my mouth. Once we finally got back to the march, I surprised myself by how much I liked to chant. “Tell me what democracy looks like!” I screamed. “This is what democracy looks like!”
I wasn’t expecting to feel as moved as I did. I still felt anxious to please, anxious of the crowds, anxious of the expectation that I would change the world. But my overwhelming feeling was one of hope and solidarity. Why was that kind of unity possible?
Honestly, I think a big part of what made my march so successful and moving was that trip to Subway. Every big movement is as strong as the hungry, tired, inspired, marching individuals. We can hold signs and shout slogans—and man, it is fun to do so!—but we can also take the march personally enough to sit down and wonder. Why am I here? What is important? To me, the strength of my relationships and my own humanity was what made the march so powerful—that hunger, that questioning, that body aligning with my mind and heart.
I defined what I was marching for, and I think that is what we all have to do. What do we hate, what do we fear? Can we take marches or movements seriously enough to ask those questions? That is where true hope and solidarity springs from, and maybe that is how we are loud and personal. Maybe that is how we truly vanquish hate and fear.
I am sitting in a café drinking my decaf maple latte with soymilk, and political conversations are woven into the air around me. I can only hope that the movement of pink hats can include many ideas of right and wrong and can listen as much as it chants. May we navigate the crowds with our elbows linked, do the things we need to do, and ask ourselves—what exactly am I fighting for?