It’s funny how hope can change everything.
Just this past June, I participated in the Chicago March for Truth with two of my three sons. While we were on the train, I told them that we were marching to demand the release of Trump’s tax returns as well as....well, just about damn near everything else. Some conclusive answers about the Russian interference in the election. A realistic plan for the healthcare system. An end to the bigotry and misogyny that were alarmingly commonplace. Immigration. Acknowledgement of climate change.
My two older sons, Mike and Joe, attended with me. They were 14 and 12 years old, respectively, and they tried to understand the components of peaceful protest. However, to be sure, there really is nothing as uncool as going anywhere with your mom, so they had to be discreet. They held their signs and peeked at me out of the corners of their eyes, watching when I cheered for the pre-march speakers, and when I just listened and scanned the crowd. I pointed out the policemen that were standing along the march route and explained that they were there to ensure our constitutional right to peacefully assemble and protest.
I told them that they would probably have to continue to march even when they were adults. They nodded soberly and asked me what I thought they would be protesting in the future. I sighed and said, “Probably something related to bigotry.” They gazed at me silently and I closed my eyes for a moment. Please, let me wrong. Please, let us all heal quickly and let this presidency just be an odd chapter from their childhood.
My reveries were interrupted by the start of the chants. “Tell me what democracy looks like!” “THIS is what democracy looks like!” We gave each other the nod, picked up our signs, and marched through the Loop until we ended up across from Trump Tower.
And that was it. We stood on the bridge across from Trump Tower. I flipped it off. The boys were either horrified by their devil-may-care mother, or maybe they wanted to flip it off as well but didn't dare. We yelled and waved our signs and looked at the other protestors. See? We're all really making a difference by being here.
But eventually, we needed to use the washroom and it was kind of warm in the sun. I thought to myself that leaving a protest was like leaving a party. You're watching the rest of the participants out of the corner of your eyes and wondering, Is anyone else wrapping it up here? Are we going home now? Eventually, we put our signs on our shoulders and walked back to the train. Saw a couple of blurbs in the newspaper about the march. But that was it. The next day was more of the same with Trump. Truly, nothing changed.
It was disappointing, but it all fell in the pile of I have to act on the despair that has filled me since November 9th. My heart can’t just break here at the kitchen table. I need to be out there with my people.
One thing I learned over this past year is that terrible things clarify what is important. When everything shattered in my personal life and I was stunned and gasping, I tried to scoop up all of the broken pieces. But as I examined the scraps, I saw plenty that didn’t need to be picked up again. I understood that it was okay to only pick up the ones that were worth saving. I made the decision to travel light.
And so it is now. On November 9th, the country broke into a thousand messy pieces. We all screamed and yelled as we tried to scoop up what we valued. But, at the end of the day, it was an exercise in futility. For those of us who identified with the Resistance, we bought pink pussy hats and white pantsuits and connected with thousands of people across the country via social media. We texted our senators and removed the ugly bigots from our lives and showed up at marches that, ultimately, didn’t seem to change much.
This is not to say that all of those actions were futile. Every instance of defiance was another tiny rung in the ladder we were climbing to get out of this mess. But we still left plenty of broken scraps behind as we moved forward. It was slow going, but we were carrying less baggage now, and the roar of voices in the Resistance kept us moving.
Without the Resistance, I would have succumbed to the despair I felt every morning as I daydreamed at the kitchen window, drinking my tea and watching the robins splash in the birdbath in the backyard. Maybe today will be the day that Trump is impeached. Or resigns. Or dies. Maybe today will be the day that this nightmare ends.
In a horrible way, Charlottesville changed all of that. The country watched as white supremacists and Nazis exercised their right to peacefully assemble. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t peaceful anymore and a counter protestor named Heather Heyers was murdered.
The country waited for a voice to lead them out this particular dark wilderness, but it never arrived. The POTUS did not unequivocally condemn the Nazis and white supremacists for their ideology. Instead, he blamed “both sides” for the violence.
And with that, finally – finally! - there was a shift within the country.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all carry a bias1 towards a particular group(s) in our society. It is an uncomfortable truth and one that most would prefer to leave unexplored. But in spite of the ugly biases that we all carry, there is one unifying truth: Never Again. As students, we all learned about the Holocaust and the basic command that we must never, never let such horrors happen again. For whatever biases we may personally carry, there is a (somewhat) universal agreement that anything even remotely approaching the Holocaust must never happen again.
Seeing those Nazi flags in Charlottesville woke up the country.
The reaction was a resounding Not This Time, Motherfuckers!
As I puttered around the house and garden today, I periodically checked the news on my phone to see how things were going in Boston. With each news report, I could feel myself getting more energized.
At last! After the huge marches of January, we’re filling the streets again. One of our country’s founding cities is counter-protesting the Nazis and white supremacists. Tens of thousands are showing up to say Never Again.
As I have reflected on the march in Boston today, I can’t help but think that the tide is turning. The country is waking up. I don’t know if this means that Trump will resign soon, but I don’t feel so alone in my despair.
I stand at the kitchen window and daydream over my tea, and I start to feel hope.
As always, thanks for reading, friends.
1I have a huge bias against wealthy white people. I also struggle with Christians who attend mega churches. My thoughts on the rich white folks, in particular, are especially unkind. Remind me to tell you sometime about the Lincoln Park families I met at an overnight Cub Scout camp. It was gasoline-and-a-match time in my head. There was no tolerance in my heart that week. Jesus had to feed me a steady stream of cherry Jolly Ranchers and place a cool, wet cloth on my forehead to keep me from completely losing my shit.
In other news, here are some pictures from the March for Truth on June 3, 2017. I'm really looking forward to the Black Lives Matter march this Saturday, August 26th.