Why I Marched
We’ve all seen and/or heard about it by now. Whether in-person, via the news, or (shudder) through social media, everyone in the country is acutely aware of the Women’s March on Washington and its “sister” marches that took place across the country this past Saturday. On the day after President Donald Trump took his oath of office at the Capitol in front of a <adjective redacted> crowd, droves of people flooded the National Mall and other big cities around the world. Their mission? To “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country,” according to the event’s official website.
I participated in the demonstration with my wife Rachael, who must be recognized for her toughness while slogging through the route only four days removed from an appendectomy. Since Saturday, the inundation of both praise and scrutiny for organizers and participants has been deafening, and in its wake, I’ve come to a single overarching conclusion. The scope of the march’s mission was so broad, the complaints and concerns as a new administration takes office so diverse and numerous, that confusion and conflict among friends, family members, and especially strangers was virtually inevitable. Noble as the intentions of the organizers may have been, and peaceful as the protest actually was, criticism and questions were unavoidable.
What was the goal of the protest? What did it actually accomplish? Why did participants feel so slighted or persecuted on day one of a new administration?
With that in mind, I wanted to share my intentions in participating in what some are claiming to be the largest protest in U.S. history. Ultimately, while I witnessed countless acts of peace and unity, there were some isolated actions with which I do not agree and to which I do not subscribe.
I marched because…
- ... I insist that women be afforded the same rights and privileges that I enjoy. Equal pay for equivalent qualifications. Appropriate representation in leadership positions. And for god’s sake, decency and respect. Period.
- ... I recognize the equal rights of all minority groups and stand in support of any people that feel threatened by proposed policy changes. The civil rights discussion is not over as long as supremacist groups feel empowered to speak out against communities based on physical differences. The fact that the voices of such radicals was legitimized at times in the past year is cause for alarm and action.
- ... I stand with the LGBTQ community. I support marriage equality. The right to love and enjoy all the benefits of a legally-recognized union, regardless of sexual orientation, should be universal and without discrimination. Without this guarantee, some of the best people I know would be unable to experience a happy marriage as I do. I’d like to think that this issue is settled. Permanently. A new-look judiciary branch may not.
- ... I support an affordable healthcare option for all. The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect solution, and I don’t believe there are people willing to argue that it is. Nevertheless, there are provisions within the policy that represent real progress. If lawmakers desire to find an improved solution, one that lowers premiums and protects patients while maintaining comprehensive coverage and driving healthy competition among providers, let’s get it done. Seeking an immediate repeal of existing policy without a replacement option will leave less fortunate folks with mountains of medical bills and without a viable path to treatment. That is cruel, unnecessary, and stupid.
- ... I oppose the condemnation of immigrants and refugees. Customs and immigration policy will continue to be an evolving and imperfect science given the volatile nature of geopolitical affairs, and the U.S. should strive for a strategic, ethical, and clearly-articulated policy. That doesn't mean that all or a majority of people arriving on our shores are a danger. I am confident that as a nation we can help some of the many people that face serious threats in their homeland.
- ... I demand climate and environmental justice. I did not anticipate championing this specific issue when the Women’s March was first announced, but the ambiguous scope of the Women’s March enthusiastically welcomed environmental activists. I enthusiastically stand at their side. Vowing to restore polluting industries such as coal to the prominence of bygone eras is misguided and demonstrates a severe lack of practicality, creativity, and motivation to lead. Prices of renewable energy technologies continue to plummet as capacity and efficiency improve, offering a golden opportunity to lead the global community into a new energy age. All while igniting the economy around sustainable technologies. To willingly pass on this opportunity is not only unwise, it’s destructive to our environmental and public health.
- ... I demand excellence and accountability from leaders that wish to represent the will of the people. This does not mean that I demand that my leaders share my views. I expect the country’s leaders, whether executive, legislative, or judiciary, to seek and speak truth. I expect them to leverage the expertise available to them. I expect them to qualify for their positions according to their job descriptions and demonstrate critical thinking and thoughtfulness during debates, hearings, interviews, press conferences, and the like. And quite simply I expect them to behave like the adults they are.
I did not march because…
- ... I am confused about who my current president is. Protesters who publicly proclaimed “not my president” in the form of signs and chants disrespect the democratic process that played itself out as designed back in November. Donald Trump is our nation’s president as decided by the people. He is the president. Denying that fact, to me, severely reduces credibility. Some are recommending everyone “give Trump a chance.” I’ll happily do so – and I do not understand how any one person could deny the president a chance – but that does not excuse the leader of the free world from scrutiny.
- ... I have insults to hurl at any elected officials. Even worse than the “not my president” messages were those laced with expletives and insults directed toward Trump. Remember Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention that so many lauded in which she concluded, “When they go low, we go high?” Cursing and name-calling is not the way to go high and is not a positive or constructive example to set for the many, many young girls that I saw marching with their parents. Plus, insults, no matter how sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek, are careless. These messages may not represent the majority of participants, but it sure is easy for detractors of the march to sensationalize the most explicit displays through a simple photo or video post on social media, eroding credibility and good faith instantly.
- ... I was excited about an opportunity to publicly shout slang terms for genitalia. I understand and support the desire to hold elected officials accountable for their transgressions. That said, see my reasoning regarding young march participants and “going high” in the previous bullet. At a few points during the march, I was thankful my young sisters were spared from hearing and seeing some of the more vulgar messages.
- ... I am pro-choice. I do not support abortion as a means of birth control, and those very few participants that chose an aggressive pro-choice message for their signs and chants do not represent my views. This does not mean that I align myself with the pro-life movement. To me, the mainstream, binary pro-choice vs. pro-life debate has become excessively black and white, leaving little room for the many nuances that should be carefully examined and rationally discussed.
- ... I wished to make a statement by severely tying up D.C.’s infrastructure. I’ve seen several criticisms of the march citing the widespread road closures and congestion in the city. First, organizers legally obtained a permit for the event. There was nothing illegal about the route on which the march planned to travel. Yes, the crowd spilled outside of the route due to its massive size. The area in which this occurred is populated almost entirely by office buildings around which crowds are not uncommon any given day. You know what else shuts down the Mall and surrounding area on Saturdays? Marathons. Half-marathons. 5ks. 10ks. Parades. Charity bike rides. Holiday festivals. Concerts. Diplomatic escorts. It’s a part of life in DC. It’s not a good argument against the Women’s March.
Listen, I enjoy political banter, parody, and scandal as much as the next guy. I find myself craving it actually given current events in recent months. Yet a public demonstration aiming to make a strong statement to a new administration on its first day in power requires strategic-thinking, maturity, and focus. Furthermore, a population wishing to criticize a leader for every tweet and conversational gaffe should be willing to hear critiques on its organization and execution. That’s not to say that gatherings can’t be fun and celebratory at the same time.
Ultimately, I do believe the Women’s March accomplished what it set out to achieve to some degree. The media is still talking about it, and marketing for many additional demonstrations has already begun to inundate my social media feeds. Most importantly, citizens feel empowered and heard. I am among them. In a period labeled by many as bleak and destructive, I am thankful for my voice and energized to use it.