Why I'll March.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In two weeks, I will join my mother, my daughter, my best friend, and many thousands of other Americans for the Women's March on Washington.  While I don't know what to expect exactly, I do know that this will be a profoundly powerful experience for us.

As the event nears, I've found myself thinking a lot about why I'm marching and why I'm taking my daughter.  I'm not the only one thinking about this -- just search #whyiMarch on Twitter or other social media and you'll find lots of voices and lots of reasons.

Truth be told, I've struggled to find words to explain why I want to be there.  This has bothered me a lot because if I can't explain it to myself, how can I explain it to my daughter?  So I've been trying to articulate my reasons, and I've been hitting a wall.  I've read up on the March, its origin, it's official mission and guiding principles.  I've read media coverage of the event and lots of social media discussion, including from parents who are taking children to the March.  I've asked my mom and my best friend why they feel moved to participate, and I've read many #whyiMarch statements.  Having done all of that, I'm not convinced a cohesive, unifying purpose for the March has emerged.  The March's official mission statement has some great language about standing together, unifying our communities, sending a bold message that women's rights are human rights -- but what does that mean exactly?  I'm really not sure.  But I've challenged myself to identify my own message.  My conclusion:  It's much easier to think about wool socks and hand warmers (we're Texans, not used to real cold!) than it is to articulate why I plan to participate in the March.

Remember my Election Day Letter to America's daughters?  "No matter who gets sworn in on January 20th," I wrote, "America wins."  Why in the world would someone who said that we're all winners fly her kid to our nation's capital to march in what looks and sounds an awful lot like a protest?

Well, it turns out my Election Day Letter comes as close to explaining my reasons as anything new I can come up with.  Drawing from what I said on Election Day, this is why I will participate in the Women's March on Washington:

I want to show my daughter the importance of participating in our democracy and the power of peaceful assembly.  I want her to see that while we value our right to vote, that cannot be the end of our civic involvement.  We must pay attention to what is going on at the local, state, and national levels.  We must educate ourselves about issues, about problems our people face and proposed solutions.  We must be able to support our views with credible sources, with facts (yes, they still exist!).  And sometimes we must use our voices and speak out for what we know is right.

I want my daughter to see the faces and hear the voices of people who care so deeply about the country she is growing up in.  I want her to feel the energy of a community of people who want to make a difference and who want to be heard.  I want her to experience the courage and passion of a huge mass of people willing to brave crowded metro stations and brutal cold (we're wimpy Texans, remember) to say to our elected officials, "We are paying attention and we will hold you accountable."

I want my daughter to see that although America elected a President who says reprehensible, disrespectful, and irresponsible things, a great many Americans believe that is not acceptable.  And a great many people want our President to know that his words ---indeed, any man's words, any person's words, any leader's words--- matter.  A lot.

I want my daughter to see me use my voice to say that women are more than objects; we deserve to be treated with respect.  I want her to know that I will stand against discrimination and inequality, that I will stand with and support others who do the same.

I want my daughter to feel empowered to defend her rights and the rights of others.  And I want her to know that she will never be alone in doing so.  We must stand up for those whose voices are silenced and protect those who feel powerless to protect themselves.

I want to honor the trailblazing women before me who have paved the way for today's young women to have more choices and opportunities than ever in our history.  Arm in arm with my mother, daughter, and closest friend, I want to celebrate the strong, determined, brave women who fought for our right to vote, who worked tirelessly to create opportunities for other women, who broke glass ceilings, who distinguished themselves and inspired us to believe that we could do so as well.  And maybe, just maybe, my efforts might somehow help pave the way for tomorrow's leaders.

I want to say loudly and forcefully that fear and hate will never win.  Love, respect, and compassion are the way to a better, stronger America.

More than anything, I want to feel hope.  I want to show my daughter that there is reason to feel hopeful.  I want her to know that this nation of ours is great, and no single election can tell the whole story.  We must look beyond the headlines and tweets, look at the character and values of real people -- that's where we'll find hope, and that's where we'll find the spirit of America.

I do wonder if my daughter is way ahead of me in understanding much of this.  We talked recently about the message of the March, and the next day she sent me this:



Why will I march?  Light.  Exactly.

Incidentally, I have no interest in protesting America's President on his first day in office (I do, however, appreciate and respect others' desire and right to do so).  President-Elect Trump won the election because a great many Americans (and many women!) voted for him and believed in his message.  Voters across the country, and especially in key counties and states, trust that he can transform a Washington DC that, to many Americans, feels broken.  I believe in our democracy and our system of government, and I believe in giving our President, and the voters who brought him to that office, a chance.  So I will not be joining any anti-Trump chorus at the March.  My message will be a positive one.

Early on, the March's Facebook page and most of the media coverage specifically stated that the March was not intended to be an anti-Trump rally, but was intended to be a bipartisan effort to support the rights of women and disenfranchised groups.  That language has now disappeared from the Facebook page and the March website (though the March's official mission statement still does not mention Trump by name), and most news articles are now referring to the March as a big anti-Trump protest. Perhaps the mission evolved once Planned Parenthood and some other big-name national organizations got involved.  Perhaps the professional organizers who stepped up to make the March happen refined the mission and chose to omit that language, recognizing that an anti-Trump protest may get more sponsors, participation, media coverage.  Or perhaps as Secretary Clinton's popular vote lead grew, the appeal of an anti-Trump message grew as well.  Whatever the case, I think it's a shame -- I felt much more aligned with the original description of the March, and I wonder if the positive, pro-women message of the March might be drowned out by an anti-Trump cry easily dismissed as sour grapes.

No matter what happens, know that I'm going to Washington to light a candle, to inspire hope, to say to America that although there is still a great deal of work to be done, I'm ready to do my part.