Just over two weeks ago, I got up early on a Saturday to go to a march. I had a spring in my step. It wasn’t really remarkable, but I distinctly remember feeling that extra oomph because I hadn’t felt it in a while. I hummed “Bread and Roses” to myself while as I donned my Ukrainian necklace and pulled my braids up into a crown, a nod to all of my sneaky, subversive pals in Ukraine. I picked up the sign I’d made in honor of my favorite suffragettes, I got coffee, and I contacted the bevy of women and men I planned to meet at the capitol. I was chipper, dammit. It was a life affirming morning. I chanted, I smiled, I waved, I laughed, I prayed, and I cried a little. It felt good. Yes, there was certainly a subtle tension in the air. There was anger. But I never saw any meanness. I saw men and women showing up, wanting to be sure their voices were heard. Sending a giant visual reminder that what is important to us counts, too. That although our candidate(s) didn’t win, those that did represent us, too.
I posted photos from the OKC march to my social media accounts for a number of reasons: it’s 2017 and I’ve begrudgingly admitted that I’m on the upper edge of millennialism, I fantasize about my amateur cell phone photography skills, I’m just as slightly narcissistic as the next person, etc. Maybe I’ve created too much of a bubble around my posts, or perhaps even my most conservative family and friends have just stopped commenting on things because I’ve got a veritable army of like minded friends who will try to shout them down. The problem with this, I’m still realizing, is that now, no one talks. In the left-right spectrum, we all tend to shove our heads in the sand, we shout into the echo chamber only and can’t hear beyond the ringing. It is exhausting, and leads to nothing. I am not a perfect person. In fact, I’m a pretty judgmental asshole. But, I try to start with kindness, and I try to remember that for all my stories, there are folks out there with ones that I’ve yet to hear. So, in belated response to a loved one who privately asked me a genuine question about why I made my way to the capitol a few weeks ago, here’s a public response to why I marched, march, and will march in three parts. For anyone reading this that wants to talk more about whatever … I’d be happy to come to the table.
Part One: Who Do I Think I Am?
I love this country. It is not perfect, but it is what we make it. I remember feeling a sort of shame not long after I started working at FDA. I studied political science in college and I had no idea all that went into a bureaucracy and why it was and is important that career public servants go to work each day. I understood that Congress could direct our federal agencies to make certain things so that, in terms of policy, I disagreed with. I did not understand that Congress could actually direct our federal agencies to do things that don’t make sense because they didn’t understand the system they themselves created. If we want a government that works for the people, we need people to elect representatives that understand how government works. Or, should work.
Every now and again, I wonder about what kind of person I would have been throughout history. Barring the difficulty I would’ve had medically being alive, sometimes I worry that I wouldn’t be proud to know what historical me did or did not do. When I was younger, I somehow managed to believe that all the civil rights problems in this country had been fixed. I was sad that I would never have the opportunity to know what it was like to live in a time in which everyday citizens became ordinary heroes. Adult me has met a lot more people than teen me, and while I still don’t know much, I’ve met people and I’ve learned histories. Adult me cringes thinking about that now.
One of my best friends made me an art. It says, “The heart is a muscle the size of your fist. Keep loving. Keep fighting.” I like to think of myself as a fairly progressive person who more often than not falls into the ‘democrat’ camp. I do not lionize my party’s candidates. They are not saviors. But for the most part, they campaign on platforms that I support, that seek to move us forward towards equity, even if what we usually get is “four more years of things not gettin’ worse.” My candidates lost this past November. So, in the simplest of terms, I march because my party lost and I want to be a citizen of this country that does more than wonder about what kind of person she would have been, could have been. Who shows up to be a face in a crowd of people letting our elected officials of all parties know that we expect better, more.
Part Two: The Weather
In 2003, Renee Zellweger brought an exceptional fictional character named Ruby Thewes to life. Her story takes place during the American Civil War. At one point, her character exasperatedly says the following:
“Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, “Shit, it’s raining!””
I am of the opinion that politics is a lot of bamboozling. A lot of bamboozling that we’ve done to ourselves. It’s often about control and it’s often about money, both of which are used to retain power. I believe that good people get into governance because they believe in service, that they recognize the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made are worth more than money and power and control. But it’s easy to get caught up in the process of staying in power in order to do good, especially when regular people phone in their citizenship and the majority of a politician’s interactions are with entities that want control and have a lot of money to make sure they can keep it. And it’s easy for those people to not only tell us who is responsible for our plight, but also to care who is responsible for our plight so much that our main concern shifts from the actual issue to who can be blamed for it. And instead of talking to people we disagree with, our goal is to help them understand how wrong they are. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about gaslighting these days. It is not a new phenomenon, but we still get lost in it.
I went to a training once (for my federal job, holler!) that delved into the ‘5 Whys’ theory, which basically states that if you ask ‘why’ enough times, you’ll eventually get to the actual cause of an issue or problem. You ask why, not who. Eventually, you get to the root, and you actually get to talk about the policies that impact whatever it is you care about: abortion rates, job security, terrorism. So, if you want to talk to me about blame or shame for some systemic issue you think this country is facing, be ready for a long conversation. There are a lot of whys, and America does not exist in a vacuum. We have to understand and care about more than these United States, and we have to consider the broader questions and impacts when we make declarations about solutions and problems. We’ll get it wrong every time if we don’t. I march because I hold my representatives to the same standard.
Part Three: What is Important to Me
I have a few favorite quotes. Things that I’ve read that have been burned into my memory. I use them as a guide for living. I’m preaching to the Hamiltonian choir on this one, but, as you know, living is harder. So, it’s important for me to live a life in which I try, in which I attempt to leave small ripples of kindness behind.
One, a JD Salinger quote from Franny and Zooey:
“[…] don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is? … Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.”
Another, from Albert Camus’ The Plague:
“…there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency.”
At the end of the day, I know there is evil in the world. I am young-ish, and I certainly enjoy a rose-colored filter, but I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the horror it leaves in its wake. I know that for every person out there who thinks like me, or could at least understand and respect my way of thinking, there is more than likely another somebody out there who understands I exist and is banking on my willingness to talk, to compromise, to seek peace first always to stall the Monicas of the world while they calculate and destroy for power or money or control or for no reason other than the fact that they can. I know that while everyone can come to the table, not everyone wants to. So, I march. More than anything else, I march because it gives me that unremarkable amount of life affirming oomph I need to stay wise to the assholes of the world (and to hopefully wear the motherfuckers out.)
*March, in any tense, can be interchanged with call, write, vote, volunteer. You get the idea.