It Matters

The Boston’s Women March was the only experience I’d ever had with protest and the first significant one that involved voicing my civic dissent in more than 140 characters. Would there be counter protestors screaming and whipping Bic lighters at us? I wondered. After all, this was frickin Baaahston! We set cars on fire when Dunkin Donuts retires pumpkin spiced latte for the season. Would the rage, despair, and fear that each of us individually brought douse the possibility to feel hopeful? Would any of this really matter? That was the question sitting uncomfortably in the pit of my stomach and raised in different forms from various voices in the days following the march. “Trump is still president!” someone commented on another friend’s post who attended a march in a Midwest city. The finger wagging. Not. Helpful.

Sitting on my own doubts and uncertainty about what to expect, I painted my sign and made plans to meet up with a girlfriend and her husband in the city. Several friends had invited me to tag along with them to DC for the primary march and rally. That was a little too intimidating for someone like me, still rubbing the sticky film of my shattered liberal bubble from my eyes, groping my way toward a much greater and more urgent sense of shared responsibility. It felt particularly important for me to show up for my community, my home town. When it comes to activism, Boston is not the new kid in school. Our city put the “pro” in protest two hundred years ago with a little something called the American Revolution. “No taxation without representation!” citizens screamed in a highly theatric display as we heaved crates of the King’s tea into the harbor and then whipped our Bic lighters at people. We get it done.

By 10 AM the narrow sidewalks were already clotted with people making their way to Boston Common. Pink pussy hats bobbed around us like champagne corks in a swimming pool. Dads pushed kids in strollers. Moms walked with their arms around teenage daughters. An elderly coupled with canes, both sporting pink knit hats, breezed past us. Everyone sported some kind of poster or sign or sandwich board with messages of peace, equality, pleas for the recognition of human rights, for respect for our earth and first nation communities. The word “fuck” showed up liberally and not, I think, without a lot of grim satisfaction.

“I wish we were going to a celebration rally,” I said to my girlfriend.

“I’m glad it’s not. I would probably stay home,” she said. “I would think ‘yeah, that’s cool, we won and things are fine. I’m good.’ But this has really forced me to do something.”

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She was right, of course. A lot of us harbored the discomfort of this truth and with it a bigger shame knowing that we had coasted for a long time on the gains won by other people who have never stopped fighting—not when the skies were dark with misery, not when they were streaked with the light of harmony. There was no passing the buck now. You were either called to be accountable or lived with the weight of denial bearing down upon your shoulders.

The Common was a burst confetti cannon of more than 150,000 people spilling across nearly every inch of greenery, overflowing into the Public Garden, a smaller parcel of land sitting adjacent to the main park. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, including the time I saw Springsteen at Fenway Park. We wedged ourselves into the mass, which wasn’t hard to do, and waited for something to happen.

Speakers took the stage to represent a buffet of issues-women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, immigration concerns, labor issues, environmental challenges. Politicians played their parts, vilifying the opposition and committing their efforts to work for the people. We were the enormous choir, preach on! I pumped my fist along with everyone else, I howled my support with the rest of the pack, and the voice of doubt that had been smuggled into the rally with me whispered, “Great, but now what? What fucking now?”

And then I remembered a conversation I had with a dear friend who was a routine activist when she was younger. I had admitted that I was on the fence about going to the march, not sure if it would really make a difference, if it would remotely matter. “In these situations,” she said, “I ask myself ‘What can I bring? What can I add here? And not ‘What will I get out of this?’” She does this. She’s that friend who drops these powerful, evolved wisdom nuggets at your feet as if they were nothing more than a handful of strewn flower petals. The anger, the activism, the criticism, the fight would all be there hours, weeks, years after moment ended. Those things were in no hurry to disappear; there would be time for all of it.

The sun had finally come out making an already mild January day seem more like a late-March afternoon. It’s a good thing we don’t need science anymore! I lifted my face to feel the warmth on my skin. Despite the dire nature of things, it felt luxurious to feel something so pleasant and ordinary. I let the speakers’ voices recede while I awkwardly shuffled around in my tight radius. Tipping myself up on my toes, I craned my neck as much as I could to take in the faces of the people standing beside me, to really see them. I made eye contact and smiled. I could almost hear our collective breathing. I imagined feeling the bass-thump of our combined hearts beating—all of us on the same human journey, given the extraordinary opportunity to remind ourselves what we’re here for. Not just why we all showed up on a patch of dirt and grass one Saturday afternoon, but why we’re here—cosmic, soul-level, higher purpose territory. That’s where it starts because that’s where it always starts: I see you, I hear you, I recognize you, I am you. It matters.

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “It Matters

  1. It absolutely does matter for our beliefs as a people. We all need to bring our bodies, our telephone voices, our emails our thoughts. This is a daily challenge now which must shake up Congress. What I expect out of this is for the members of Congress to listen to us and to act in the best interest of this country and this planet. The falsehoods and deceit must end now or we will end it in 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I lived in Belmont MA for 17 years up until a year and a half ago when I moved to CA. I watched my old friends post about the Boston march on Facebook. It was cool to see that! I marched in Santa Cruz.

    This sentence seems like a bright spot in all this:
    “A lot of us harbored the discomfort of this truth and with it a bigger shame knowing that we had coasted for a long time on the gains won by other people who have never stopped fighting—not when the skies were dark with misery, not when they were streaked with the light of harmony. There was no passing the buck now.”

    I think that’s true of me and many of my friends as well. These conflicts and divides were already there, under the surface. The election laid them bare. Now we’re all in it together and there’s no passing the buck now. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi K.L.! Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful reply. And thanks for showing up in Santa Cruz! 🙂 Yeah, I really do feel the weight of my privilege and comfort and that’s ok. It is motivating me to stay aware, get more involved, get more educated, and step up to share responsibility now and always. This storm will pass and we will be a stronger more compassionate nation because of it. But our struggles and challenges will remain in some form. I’m ready to meet those as well…because what impacts one, impacts us all. Peace and keep up the good work! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I marched in Washington. I have to admit that some of the signs with the F word were a bit disturbing for me. But, I understand the spirit of the frustration and anguish the signs painted. You captured so much of what happen that day. Thank you for sharing that perspective and calling us to continued action. This week’s immigration focus has underlined FEAR in its worse sense. We have allowed fear to blind us and cripple us as a nation. Let’s stop being fearful and return to “the home of the brave.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carolyn! Thanks so much..you are truly kind. I’m sure it was incredible to be in DC for the march. I can only imagine the energy. I hear you on some of the messaging..it’s a little like junk food: feels great to eat the bag of chips and then… It’s that momentary release of anger and, well, rage really. It has to go somewhere, might as well end up on a sign. The real work is staying focused. I said to a friend that this was an anger and empathy marathon. I believe it. Agreed that the immigration orders are reprehensible and in no way reflect our national character. This team is dangerous and they simply must be stopped. I will be staying vigilant, active, and taking care of myself to make it to the end of this marathon. I know you will too. Be well.

      Like

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