WMW field notes: some thoughts from a marcher

I had the privilege of participating in the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday. It was great.

Friday night I kept myself awake watching episodes of Friends until 1:00 a.m. Then I finished getting ready to leave my apt, put on my coat and my walking shoes, grabbed my bag, and headed out to my friend’s place (aptly named Peace Cottage) to catch a ride with her to Kingston, where our bus departed from at 3:00 a.m. Destination: our nation’s capitol.

We arrived at the outskirts of D.C. around 9:00 a.m. to the New Carrolltown Metro Station. It was packed. On the metro on the way into the city, we met two women from Tampa, FL who had flown in the night before to march. Metro riders (mostly women) were really conscious of making sure a mother on board with a stroller had enough space. We passed the station where all the buses were parked – the lots were full to the gills, and the crowd on the metro cheered.

 

I’m not going to give a scene-by-scene description of my whole experience at the March. Just a few snippets and thoughts from the day that I wanted to put here:

  • Overall, there was a very good atmosphere. There were a TON of people. It was very peaceful, even cheerful, with great vibes of strength and resiliency and a determination to resist. There was a lot of creative energy in that crowd. So many women. So many pink hats. At some points, it was so packed that we (myself and my two marching buddies) had to hold hands and weave our way through a standing crowd to get to where we could march forward again.
  • On one hand, the march and its widespread support and participation was really encouraging; on the other, it felt pretty futile – and even more so in the few days following it so far. B/c the same new administration was still in power the day after the march as it was the day of the march. Etc.
  • Lots of great signs – wish the camera app on my phone was quicker! I wasn’t able to get a picture of all of them that I would’ve liked to, but I did get a few. A lot of different causes were represented – it wasn’t just about one particular issue.
  • I wasn’t able to get pictures of the best ones I saw. The basic gist of some other signs I saw that stuck with me:
    • Liberty is a Lady
    • Women build bridges, not walls
    • A woman’s place is in the Resistance
    • A woman’s place is in the [White] House and the Senate.
    • The words”We are sisters” repeated in different lines with different fading, so that the word “Resist” in the middle of that phrase was emphasized in some lines.
    • White women, please march for murdered black children, too
    • The Emperor Has No Clothes
    • This is Not Okay
    • Silence is Violence
    • Ignorance is the worst form of violence
    • Be subversive through knowledge
    • Librarians against Trump
    • The Ministry Has Fallen. The Death Eaters Have Taken Over. Wands Up! (H.P. ref.)
    • If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it?
    • The Future is Female
    • A picture of an Native man with the message: “Resistance: We’ve been here before.”
    • Respeto mi existencia o esperar mi resistencia (please excuse any grammatical errors w/ my Spanish)
    • …And lots more.
  • That sobering moment of marching past the Holocaust museum with the words “Never again” displayed on its banners out front. B/c surely ensuring the keeping of such a promise as “Never again” includes never again letting hateful rhetoric get out of hand to the point of even threatening the well-being of any group – which it already has, and has done more than threatened. So now is NOT the time for silence, and we must not stop challenging hateful and unjust language and policies. (Relevant to the Holocaust reference, read this short essay, “A Date That Will Live in Infamy,” by  retired professor Charles Bayer on why participating in events like marches are essential to democracy.)
  • Along those same lines…Truth to Power. Backside message of a simple poster that read “Quakers for Justice” on the front. YES. Purpose of the March in a nutshell. Purpose of prophetic voices, always: Challenging systemic injustices by speaking out about them and speaking truth to those in power, who are either abusing their power or need to be prompted to help do something about rectifying those injustices. Or both. Also, to wake people up.

 

Near the end of the day, our trio wound up at the Washington Monument, where we hung out for a bit before making our way to the Metro. Several people were laying on their backs near it and propping their feet up on its side, so we joined in. Felt surprisingly good for our tired feet.

There was the Capitol building over to our right, and the Lincoln Memorial off in the distance to our left. I tried taking a picture for my sister Emma (she was really into Lincoln a few years ago), but it didn’t come out so hot. There were fellow marchers all over, everywhere I looked. It made me feel proud and optimistic and hopeful, at least in that moment. Then we caught the metro and our bus, and found ourselves back in upstate NY around midnight.

I’m incredibly grateful it worked out for me personally to be able to go and be a part of this important moment in American history. I felt that just showing up and being there and participating on the ground in D.C. was really important. Some key transportation details were up in the air for me up until just a few days prior to Saturday; so again – very thankful everything worked out, and also that I was able to march w/ some friends, and not just solo.

It was also really neat to see some news reports about the March in the couple of days after it, especially about Sister Marches from all around the world. Some even out in the snow, epic women of Utah! There were even some participants in Antartica – Penguins for Peace! Too great.

 

On the day after the WMW, I went to church. I was pretty tired (even though I got back to my place around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning, I didn’t end up getting to sleep til about 5:00 in the morning, I was so wound up!), but I really wanted to go.

I’m so glad I did. Betsy preached an amazing and courageous sermon, which spoke “truth to power” in its own right, and also drew from one of the texts for the day: 1 Corin. 1:10-18, which calls for no division among believers – Betsy made a good point that connected back to our nation’s current political situation; for Christians in America today, it shouldn’t be about who we voted for, or didn’t vote for, so much as who we follow – which is supposed to be Christ, whose name we bear. Christ. Who taught a radical message of creative, courageous love, preached that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor and the forgotten, and still calls his followers today to walk in that same path of pursuing justice and peace, and looking out for the needs of the vulnerable.

Before I left my apt. Friday night on my way to the WMW, I read these words in Ephesians; I thought they were fitting to carry with me as I set out to march: And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Here’s another verse with a walking reference that I’ve had in mind lately, in relation to all this (and the coming days): For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

And though not from the Christian Scriptures, I also really like this: 

When sleeping women wake, mountains move. – Chinese Proverb

Here’s hoping enough of us are sufficiently awake, and are joined by even more wakers soon – and that we stay awake and alert. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long four years. Not to be a pessimist here, but it hasn’t even been a week and it already feels nightmarish.

Don’t want to end with that. Just this last thought for now: it’s high time for more Americans to become more actively involved in our system of democracy (however imperfect) somehow. I wrote to my Congressman last night. You can contact your representatives, too! You can find our who your members of Congress are here, and also how to contact them – you can also write to them about the issues that matter most to you and your take on things.

Your voice matters. So please use it. And keep walking.

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