Why participate in a public march – what do you hope to accomplish? Isn’t it a waste of time – who in power cares? As I browsed the internet over the past couple of days these questions were occasionally asked. Historically, the answer is that well organized marches made a difference in the lives of people who had been denied the rights guaranteed them under our Constitution.
It is a way of making our voices heard that is guaranteed under our Constitution. I have traveled in Russia and Cuba and was struck by how afraid people are to speak about their governments, how afraid people are of the police in Russia. My daughter-in-law immigrated from Russia as an adult and speaks forcefully about how difficult it is living in fear of serious consequences when people are a disfavored cultural group or speak out in dissent, speak truth, posses banned books that may expand a person’s perspective. Actually she doesn’t speak about that as much as she speaks about how much better it is to live in the free world. I marched for these reasons because I have observed that our new president’s fragile ego and need for constant demonstrations of support make me fear that, even though he says no one respects the Constitution more than he does, his insecurities cause him to act in ways that aren’t consistent with who he believes he is. I have seen way too many good people do really bad things because of their unresolved insecurities. So I decided to march.
I think the strongest reason I marched was because of guilt that I didn’t march in my younger days. I have carried that guilt with me for way too many years, silently. I was silently angry about racial discrimination, and I was silently angry about gender discrimination. Maybe I didn’t have the courage to be angry out loud, in public. Age and politics have given me the courage to be more public in stating my thoughts when I believe that something is wrong, when people aren’t playing fair, when people are being hurt in ways that aren’t right or just.
I didn’t think the sister march in Naples, Florida was going to be very big because this is a Republican strong-hold and Trump won Collier County. This is where a government official said that Occupy Wall Street demonstrators wouldn’t be tolerated here because this is where the 10% come to relax. None of us in the 90% disagreed. I was surprised when I found out that there was a march organized, and speculated that maybe a couple hundred would show up. It took courage for me to register, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to die with a clean political conscience if I didn’t do it. I had to pull up something greater than my “big girl panties.” I had to wear my “courageous girl panties.”
Here are my random observations and thoughts:
It wasn’t particularly well organized, or their organization hadn’t been publicized. They had kept the starting point of the march a secret. I soon realized that this march was much more spontaneous and grass-roots than nationally organized. How powerful it felt. All these people who didn’t know what was suppose to happen, making decisions and helping each other form a cohesive whole. The starting point ended up being 4 blocks away from where we were told to meet. We waited for a shuttle bus that never came. People around us were making decisions to walk east to the starting point, but JB and I decided to walk south to join up with the people who had already started (after all I didn’t expect there to be that many so they would all be gone by the time I reached the start). As we passed people walking to the meeting place, we told them the parade route and they joined with us – and we joined others at the next corner, and more at the next corner to join in the real march. Our little march to join the real march was attracting attention. Someone asked what we were marching for and received several different answers – one a little snarky.
By this time I was getting excited about the diversity of people. Don’t let me miss-lead you – this is a primarily white community with a sizable population of brown and black-skinned people working the service jobs but living further inland. They are living on the edge, literally and figuratively, and they probably had to work at keeping their lives together instead of marching. I guess I was marching for them. I want them to have the same chance at a slice of paradise that I so enjoy, even though I’m not a part of the 10%. Maybe I don’t belong here any more than they do – or they have as much of a right to belong here as I do. There were young families with children, many men walking with wives, people of all ages including old people with walkers, with limps; walking in physical pain but who couldn’t stay home.
I didn’t feel any anger in the march, instead I observed people feeling powerful – speaking out for what they believe is important for the good of society, our common good. People were holding signs on climate change, human rights, reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood, Affordable Care Act, anti-Trump, and my favorite “We shall over-comb.”
There were a few police. I saw a couple of police cars and a couple of police on bikes. Another police was directing the marchers to turn onto 5th Ave., probably more to keep us from expanding the march than to keep us from losing our way. The police weren’t on high alert – they were curious and maybe a little concerned about the large number.
There was no we-against-them. We all cheered and supported all causes. We laughed and talked. In the end, my favorite chant was “What does democracy look like?” “This is what democracy looks like.” (I need to wipe my eyes because I can’t see the screen through my tears.)
There were a lot of people marching. The Naples Daily News estimated that there were 2,500 – a few more than the 200-300 I anticipated. I didn’t think of the people on vacation who wanted to join in because they were away from the march where they live. As I walked along, I thought of the people I knew who were marching all over the country. I felt a connection with those in D.C., but also Lansing and Ann Arbor, Seattle and Los Angeles, Portland Maine and Portland Oregon. When I arrived home I was blown away by the news coverage of all the marches that exceeded expectations.
I was touched when I learned that people marched in Toronto, London, Paris, Germany, Australia and lots of cities in between. Thank you if you marched in support for us, but more so for marching for those issues that are important for you. Are they any different?We are a global community and whatever happens to one of us, impacts all of us. There is no way that we can be selfish in order to keeping ourselves safe and comfortable and prosperous. The only chance we have of protecting ourselves is to work with others to protect all peoples and the environment we live in.
As we left the march at the end of the route, JB and I held hands, and he said he was glad that he marched.
I’m also joining in The Travel Theme: March. See you there.