Friday, January 20th, 21:43: I sent a text to my traveling boyfriend before bed, letting him know what I was up to. I had just finished organizing my stuff to carry me through the next day, which would be replete with some of my favorite people, doing some of my favorite things and, well, estrogen. First, it was my running team’s annual meeting, so into bags went my laptop and my team jacket. Second, the team traditionally runs after the meeting, so into the pile went running clothes and my Garmin. Third, the San Francisco Women’s March, so I added warm, waterproof clothes (aka ski gear) and my trash bag sign. And snacks, water, Sharpies, a whistle and light, plastic bags… anything I could think of that might possibly be useful in a wet crowd, although my plan-ahead game had been severely limited by being sick the week before. I had managed to rally some friends together with an email, as it was important to me to participate in this event with at least a subset of my strong women friends.
After the run, a group of us met up at a friend’s who lives within walking distance of the rally. K passed out homemade pink cat ear headbands, and we met friends-of-friends and landlords as we bundled up, water-proofed ourselves and our signs, and shared in small-talk revolving around posts of friends at other marches across the country, meeting up with others who were also en route, and the fact that most of us had never, ever participated in something like this before.
As we neared City Hall, the crowds thickened but remained jovial, as we snapped “before” photos and read signs; found friends and a permanent spot. We decided to stay at the edge of the crowd, not wanting to push through, and soon enough we were no longer the edge but the middle. It was so hard to get a sense of just how big the crowd was. I could spot signs many yards away, and had this general sense that we were part of something very, very big. But was that 1,000 people or 100,000? My crowd claustrophobia threatened to kick in a few times as the space between me and those around me got smaller and smaller, and as umbrellas popped up when a shower would pass. But then I could just turn around and appreciate the enormity of the whole thing, the fact that being in a crowd was the whole point, and that dealing with a crowd when they’re not drunkenly trying to get closer to the stage is actually not that bad.
Why I March(ed)
As the rally speakers and performers shared stories and energized the crowd, I reflected on why I was there. Why did I want to go against my introverted, crowd-hating tendencies to join masses of people on this day? I kept saying that I’d regret it if I didn’t go, but that’s not a reason to go. In fact, finding my voice in all of this has been and remains a very real struggle for me (more on that later), and the main reason I turned off social media on Friday — I needed to connect with my core and filter the input. Why was I there?
I knew that, for the most part, I agree with the platform of the marches. I wanted to be part of a group marching to send a message and to spread truth and love and hope. Equality for women, yes, and also for all. The very basic tenets of what it means to be part of a human society — that it’s about more than just me. I will say, though, that for me, the march was as much about finding my own personal connection to a world-wide movement as it was about the political and social statement of the march as a whole. It was also about finding my own strength, about being inspired, about unleashing anger in a safe space, about remembering there is strength in numbers and that I am not alone in having outrage, conflicting thoughts, and a core visceral knowledge about what’s right.
Not My President
I could go into a long list of what the protest was not about for me. It was not about being a sore loser. It was not about the hows and whys. It was not even about bashing the President. I found myself having a hard time with the “Not My President” sentiments or the anti-Trump chanting. They were good for a release of anger, but guess what. Trump is our President. You may not have voted for him, you may not agree with anything he says or stands for or promises to do, but he is legally our President. I appreciate the sentiment, I really do, because it’s honestly still hard for me to swallow the lump in my throat having to write that, but I can’t get behind it. I fear that this rally cry just paints us as sore losers.
He’s our President, but he doesn’t represent me. I don’t have to accept his actions.
I believe in focusing our energy on making positive changes and not on undercutting our legal president. I believe in working to change the system that allowed his rise to power, not in attacking him and calling him names. I believe in staying vigilant and focusing on the truth, not in arguing with this Tweets and hyperbole. I believe in holding him and government in general accountable to the people, not normalizing him just because of his position. I believe in focusing on the policy and laws, not the man. Because things are going to be bad enough without resorting to playground tactics. We’re better than that.
Trump uses Comic Sans
That said, I will admit the cleverest signs I saw did bring Trump down a few notches.
Trump uses Comic Sans — only in San Francisco, right?
I’ve seen smarter cabinets at Ikea — this may take the prize.
There are more of us and we have bigger hands
Hands so small, can’t build a wall
We need to talk about the elephant in the womb
Following the rally, the crowd slowly started moving down Market Street towards the Ferry Building. Right on cue, the skies fully opened. A friend got a text from a group who had already made it to the end, and we hadn’t even made it two blocks. They had started earlier, before the main crowd, and we at first scoffed and called them cheaters. But then, after a few minutes, we all started talking about it again — that this meant there was a steady stream of people for the mile-plus between us and the end. Holy shit.
We’ll be OK
As the march continued and people peeled off, we eventually met back up at A’s place to dry off and decompress. It would take us all some time to fully appreciate what we had just been a part of, but a few early sentiments were shared. At one point, we had circled around to being conflicted between wanting to march and be outraged on one side, and wondering if it even is worth it on the other. A made a comment about it being hard because “we’ll all be ok.” She didn’t mean it in a Pollyanna denial way; instead, that we are upper-middle class educated white women in a progressive city, a city that will be able to buffer a lot of what goes on at the federal level, and very few policy changes will directly affect us.
If that’s true, it would be very easy for us to ignore what’s going on — to just turn away and wait out the storm of the next four years. So why is it that we’re not? What is it about right now that is drawing us out into the pouring rain to make our voices heard?
For me, it’s because being an American and having a vote and a voice means it’s more than just about me.
Yes, I live in a liberal bubble. Yes, there’s a lot I’m seeing and understanding for the first time, and I’m dealing with guilt associated with that.
That guilt is nothing compared to the horror of seeing adversity and injustice and discrimination and pretending it doesn’t exist. Pretending someone else’s truth isn’t true because it doesn’t look like my truth.
We’ve forgotten that, while the American Dream may be one of individualism and the potential of one person, it is supported by the strength of the many. There is no one without all. This election was a result of people voting not for the rest of the country, but for themselves and those that look like them.
Still I Rise
I wrote this Maya Angelou quote on a white trash bag that I wore as a poncho. I picture each of us, struggling to rise out of the ash and out from underneath suppression of any kind. I include Trump voters in this image, because I fear that a lot of them were duped and will find themselves in need of support from us when they don’t get it from their government.
My struggle continues to be finding how I, in my own way, can feel like I’m making a difference. I want to find ways to change this firehouse of outrage into a laser of action. It’s exhausting to react to everything, and I’d like to be more mindful about where I direct my energy. It’s also draining to try to make my action look like others’ — and vice versa — as we all have our own reasons for fighting and ways of doing it. I’m still figuring this out. For now, I will continue to share my struggle and put my voice out into the world, hoping that by struggling together, we can rise together.