PART II of III
Pussyhat, pussyhat, what saw you there?
Thousands of people, who fear and who care! (with apologies to Mother Goose)
At the Women’s March on Chicago, on January 21, the crowds filled the streets; we could not, physically, “march” anywhere en mass. So we did not march, but we rallied. Lots of standing on hard concrete, but good speeches and music. Still speakers and musicians came to the platform to inform, inspire and entertain the massed thousands. My group was at least a couple of blocks from the stage, and we could barely see images of the stage on a giant TV screen a city block a away. We could not see, but speakers were up, and we could hear: organizers of this march, activists across the spectrum, local politicians, and more diverse voices who wanted us to come together, chant together, and work together, for the good of all.
Looking around, there was ample evidence as to why people were marching, via the main platform speeches, thousands of signs, and a sea of pink knit hats. Their signs showed they were concerned, fearful and angry about health care for women, undoing processes for preventing and prosecuting sexual assault, many statements and behaviors of the new President, proposed cabinet appointees, enduring racism, growing fascist ideology & behaviors, dismantling of and disrespect for democratic process, attempts to curtail LGBTQ rights, state control of women’s reproductive rights, the variety of dilemmas of the poor, as well as bias and assault based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship status. And more I have left out. There were Princess Leia signs encouraging “Resistance!” Straightforward criticism of the new administration. Caricatures. Fallopian flags demanding, “don’t tread on me!” “Women’s rights are human rights.” Signs promoting science. “Protect what you love.” “white supremacy has no place in the White House.” “Love Trumps Hate.” “Rise Up!” “We the People,” showing a woman in a hijab. “Save my healthcare.” “Girls just want to have Fun … damental Rights.” Lots of signs; lots of concerns; lots and lots of people. All of them massing the day after the 2017 inauguration. And not a single arrest or violent event.
Despite the concerns represented on signs, most participants were smiling and energetic. They were quite the opposite of the stereotype of a stern, humorless activist. Many messages on the signs they carried were designed as satire: to point out an excess and to draw a laugh at the expense of the new administration. There were also many, many signs advocating love over hate as the bedrock of for governing and general behavior. These many thousands of women and allies were happy to be able to exercise their first amendment right to free speech and assembly, where they could voice their very real concerns about bad behavior on the part of business and government and individuals that are woven into the fabric of our society like bad knitting. Threads that need to be ripped out and recrafted with care in a way that benefits everyone, not those who have tremendous power already.
Themes of the day from the podium were varieties of encouragement for the attendees: take your energy home and get involved to make your corner of the world a better place, get out of your comfort zone and talk to those people different than you—really see them and become aware of them, discover that you have hundreds of thousands of allies in the Chicago area, find ways to get behind various organizations working to support women in need in many different ways across the city, state, and country, and also to just keep on keepin’ on when the way ahead may seem difficult. “I am my sister’s keeper!” and “Connect, Protect, and Activate!” were the main chants of the day, and letting one another know that you truly “have their back” in some concrete way, and then planning on acting on that promise was an especially important take-away from this event. In many ways, it was as much a rally against complacency in political participation as anything else. Rights, hard-fought for, can be taken away. Is that immanent? Three million people around the world think so. However, what one fights for, persists. What is on paper needs to be made real in human interaction; this takes presence, involvement, and plain old-fashioned work and citizen sweat equity.
More next week: same bat-time, same bat-channel!