A day later, we now know that the Women’s March on Washington was an unequivocal success. Extending far beyond Washington, about 60 countries witnessed an aggregate of 3 million protesters making a show of defiance and solidarity for not only women’s rights, but also for climate change, racial equality, healthcare reform, labor laws, and a number of intersecting causes that recently have come under attack. What struck me most at the march in Washington, D.C. was the diversity of signs signaling inclusivity and the need for action.
This past election-year brought to the fore a number of problem areas for the Democratic Party and for liberal culture more broadly. Trump’s supporters decried elitism, classism, and political exclusion as afflictions hampering their livelihood and wellbeing. They saw in Donald Trump an antidote and a hope. When Trump won the presidency, liberals and Democrats alike looked inwards to diagnose the cause of the startling and unexpected outcome. Explanations abounded. One enduring explanation is that for some time the Democratic platform has largely ignored America’s heartland, turning to its citizenry only when necessary as opposed to weaving their lived experience into policy and platform alike.
Jasmin, 22, from New York City was at the march representing herself, other women, and Planned Parenthood. She says that we’ve never been more divided. “We have a lot of signs around here saying we are ‘indivisible,’ but that’s not true…” She believes the fracture we see is unlike any in recent history and that our failure to repair it could spark a grave sequence of events. “There’s a social civil war.”
She instructs us to recognize our shared fate. “At the end of the day we are all on the same boat, we are on the same ship. There’s no such thing as your side of the ship is sinking. If we are going down, you are going down with us”
“The bigger picture is that we are all still Americans, and after this administration,we are still a country. We still have to find a way to deal with our neighbors. We have to find a way to bridge these divides before this tension becomes violent. Our children don’t deserve that.”
This can get murky in liberal circles. The narrative of inclusion and inclusivity can reek of appropriation, subversion and the dismissal of individual, lived experiences along racial, gender, and class lines. And depending on whom the message is coming from, a swift ‘check your privilege’ can undo any attempt to pinpoint commonalities rather than differences.
Sydney, 28, from New York City, also works with Planned Parenthood. She emphasized the “importance of intersectionality,” making particular reference to a sign that read Mike Pence Sucks Too. “I think that all of us coming together and realizing that this isn’t on one group alone is an important step in the right direction.” As she sees the matter, healthcare, for one, affects us all, not just women. That and other issues demand intersectionality by their very nature.
The sheer magnitude of the Women’s March illustrates the ubiquity of turnkey issues like women’s rights. Around the world, men, women, and children stepped onto the streets to make a stand against patriarchy and oppression, in all its forms.
Mary, 25, of Massachusetts caught the public’s eye with a protest banner. In 30-degree weather she unabashedly marched, her nipples covered with black duct tape, and on her bare chest the words Keep Your Laws Off My Body.
When asked whether this march will help heal the nation she said: “I don’t want people to heal! I want people to fucking work. This should make them feel like there is a unified voice because there are a ton of people here who feel the same way. What can I do to make a difference because I’m not going to fucking sit idly for four years?”
Jillian, 31, of California bought her ticket to the march the day after the election because she needed to take a stand against the assault on “basic human dignity” that took place throughout the election. Beyond that she hopes people will take action.
“I think the Indivisible Guide is excellent. We need to mimic a lot of the tactics of the Tea Party and we need to get out onto our legislatures, stay out on the streets, and we need to vote with our dollars, and be non-violent. And we need to hate the policies, not the people.”
In November of last year, a coalition of the discontented rose out of the heartland to crown Donald Trump with their hopes and dissatisfactions. Now he holds the awesome responsibility of pacifying their outrage with tangible solutions. At the same time a coalition of the hopeful rose up worldwide, convicted in their vigilance. We saw their numbers yesterday.
The march brought to light the mass discontent and outrage brewing in the United States and abroad. And that goes well beyond President Trump himself. As I learned at the march, in the eyes of many, President Trump is an incarnation of their darkest fears. As such he is a source of unintentional good. He is a bogeyman come alive who unknowingly wields the power of uniting people in proactive fear and solidarity.
The beauty of democracy is that pluralism like this is requisite for healthy discourse and social progress. In one protracted moment, the nation was granted an opportunity to rewrite the rules of engagement, citizens were animated across the board, and a perennial hope grew to full bloom.
Now it’s time to work.