I Hate Protesting

There was a great man [who] once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle. It is the pendulum. And when the pendulum swings too far in one direction it will go back.
— Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

OK hate is a strong word. Maybe I should have titled this "I feel very uncomfortable in a protesting environment." That just doesn't have the same ring to it though...

My family taught me many valuable things, but being actively involved in politics was not one of them. Both my parents vote every four years for president, make a comment every now and then on the political climate, but mostly let others deal with 'politicking.'

My first rally was in DC, with the explicit purpose of making fun of rallies: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert wanted to make fun of Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally. Everyone there was rather calm and relaxed. In a way, I felt like we were all showing how ridiculous rallies were and how they really don't accomplish anything.

My favorite sign from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

My favorite sign from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

I voted for Obama in 2012 and felt proud of myself. "I participated in democracy, yeah! Now I can focus on the rest of my life for four years." After graduating college, I started working for City Year.

City Year is an Americorps program, which itself works for the government. During our training we were told to not discuss politics while in uniform. In the evenings and weekends we could be as political as we wanted, but as soon as we put any "CY Swag" on there were to be no politics discussed. Being that I barely discussed politics anyway, I had no problem with this.

That was until we got our backpacks and was told by a peer (not a boss) that I needed to take my Rainbow Ribbon off. There were to be no politics on the clock.

CY Backpack with Rainbow Ribbon

CY Backpack with Rainbow Ribbon

I was confused. I received that ribbon from a friend and used it to remind me to fight for equal rights for all every day. A very City Year thing to do. This is how our discussion went (this was the fall before it was legalized nationally):

Me: "This isn't political, this is human rights. That's what CY fights for."

Friend: "No, gay marriage is a political issue that CY can't say which side they are supporting. By wearing that you are saying that CY supports gay marriage."

Me: "...but it is equal marriage. That's like saying that interracial marriage is 'political.' Or access to water. Or fighting for gender equality."

Friend: "Look, I support gay marriage but they are going to tell you to take that off because it is seen as a political issue."

Now my friend is for equal marriage, and was trying to make sure I didn't get in trouble. But I didn't understand how that could POSSIBLY be seen as a political issue.

Emily Ford, Womxn's March Bellingham

Emily Ford, Womxn's March Bellingham

Jump forward a few months, and I'm discussing politics in education in graduate school. I took the CY approach: there is no room for politics in the classroom. Being that the majority of my cohort has a Left Coast mindset (where it is culturally appropriate to discuss politics in any situation), they argued that of course politics have to be in education. Politics are in everything. We went back and fourth for an hour, coming to the conclusion that this is complicated but we all need to work together.

Then Trump got elected. Luckily I was with multiple friends that evening where we could mourn together. To a few I said "If fighting for basic humans rights is a political statement, then call me an activist." Those words are easy to say in the moment, but actually doing something about it is the true test.

Friday night I was feeling sick in my stomach. I didn't want to go to the Womxn's March in Bellingham. I intentionally woke up late this morning and walked a little slower than usual. Even when I found my friends, I'm sure they could tell I was uncomfortable. I tried to get out of saying anything by telling everyone "I'm here today to listen."

In the middle of one of the speeches, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked "I didn't know there was a City Year stationed in Bellingham!" I hadn't even noticed I had thrown on my old jacket, but I was excited to talk about anything other than protesting. Excitedly I said "Oh I'm from New Hampshire, where I served."

With the stench of multiple years of cigarettes on his breath, he then said "You know the colors of Red, White, and Black are hypnotic. That's why fascists use them. It makes people think they are for the right cause. Like City Year or this march. All the colors are red, white, and black."

I look up and see that he is wearing a black cap with the white lettering 'Make America Great Again.' I quickly realized that what I thought was an escape from political talk was a dive straight into it. He then continued on how civilizations used to kill left handed people because they were evil. I knew that from the root word in Latin, but then asked if that has any connection with today. He continued to say that 'the left' has always been evil, and that they are projecting Trump to be a person of hatred when actually he wants to bring America together. In my attempt to make conversation I asked "Make it great for who?" when he was distracted by a sign that said 'My pussy grabs back!'

The great Peace Wizard among others at the march.

The great Peace Wizard among others at the march.

My friends quickly pulled me away and asked if I was OK. The gentlemen continued to talk with other people, while I tried to process what the hell just happened. When we finally started to march, my mind was just trying to take in everything. I could process it all later.

  • No hate. No fear. Everyone is welcome here.
  • No Trump. No KKK. No fascism in the USA.
  • Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.
  • We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter.
  • Don't be stupid. Don't be dumb. A vagina's where you're really from.

In the middle of all of this my friend Joe asked if I could hold his sign for awhile (he wanted to take pictures). The front of it had the last quote from the list above, while the other side said:

Poster and picture courtesy of Joe Loviska.

Poster and picture courtesy of Joe Loviska.

After the march I quickly said goodbye to my group of friends, and went home to 'recuperate.' I didn't have the words to express how I felt, so I just spent the afternoon cuddled up with my laptop watching dumb things on the internet.

When I went grocery shopping later, I decided to turn on the radio instead of podcasts for a change. Unexpectedly, I found inspiration from these words:

You won’t believe, the most amazing things that can come from a terrible night.
— Some Nights by Fun.

I was uncomfortable with protesting because they only exist if something is wrong. I want the easy way out. Once we legalized equal marriage, there would be no more discrimination against the LBGTQUIA community. Once we elected a black president, racism would end. Once facts about climate change were shown to the nation, there would be no climate change denial.

But fighting for human rights is a long and slow process. We as a nation are far from over in this journey called freedom. Even if Hillary was elected, there would be countless problems needing to be fixed for everyone to be truly free in this great nation. While the 3.5 million women and allies around the world helped to show me that, my friends helped me learn that at my own pace. Thank you Aly, Alexi, Emily, Ginna, Annah, and Joe for showing me what democracy looks like.

From top left: Alexi, Joe, Adam, Ginna. From bottom left: Aly, Emily, Annah. Photo courtesy of Aly Gourd.

From top left: Alexi, Joe, Adam, Ginna. From bottom left: Aly, Emily, Annah. Photo courtesy of Aly Gourd.

Taking a cue from the song above, what do I stand for? Why was it important to march today? While today I marched for Womxn's Rights, there are many other issues that I hold dear (but have rarely voiced in public). I stand for:

  • Planet care. Our climate is changing rapidly due in large part to activities of humans. We need to drastically change our actions if we are to survive, most specifically reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. We also need to protect many of the habitats on the planet as to reduce and stop more biodiversity loss. The new administration is for more use of fossil fuels and less environmental regulations for businesses.
  • Equality and justice. American history has been dominated by the 'rich straight white guy' narrative. While there are those that are white or male that may be experiencing hardship, the majority of those who fall into that category have many privileges (myself included). I'm for giving voice to those who do not have those privileges and have been experiencing hardship since before the founding of this nation. The current administration is run by someone who has made countless sexist and racist remarks, and even mocked a reporter with a disability.
  • Free education. One of the best things about humanity is teaching the next generation so that they will be better than those before. Through the public education system we get to teach the entire nation equally. Ideally everyone would be given the same resources so that a student's success was only dependent on their own hard work, and not a lack of resources. The current administration is against the public school system in favor of a system that disproportionately helps those with more financial resources.

When these issues are resolved, I will go back to only being involved in politics every four years to vote for president. But until then, I'm an activist.