the only way out is through #5

January 21, 2017… Day 2. We march.

A Facebook friend said it best when he wrote “I woke up feeling like a pile of broken dishes, but I got myself up and moving in the direction of the march.”

I woke up with that feeling like I just remembered a good friend died. But after rolling myself over and looking at my phone, there was this text from a friend: “I’m getting my whole family to the march. This is too important.”

She lives way out in the suburbs, she has really little kids, she’s historically apolitical, she’s never even heard terms like “neoliberal” or “intersectional.” She didn’t know that there was a vacant Supreme Court seat. Her husband until recently considered himself a Republican but was also mostly apolitical. She was upset about Trump, but 24 hours earlier she’d bailed on marching with me–she apologized, said too many logistics, just can’t do it. A whole day and evening of inaugural pomp later, she was galvanized to go after all.

Her text energized me. So did the flood of photos from around the country and the world. The D.C. march was already underway. I had to force myself to settle down and eat breakfast, in the midst of worldwide protest tidbits, last minute preparations, logistics, and communications.

Met a bunch of people at the bus stop. We all had to start talking to each other when we realized no bus was going to stop. They just kept passing by, packed. This is like the seed crystal of organizing. People had various ideas, knowledge, needs, and preferences. We split up in groups and dispersed to find our ways to the march. When my group finally got on a bus that was going in the right general direction, we immediately started talking to everyone else who was already on the bus about their plans to make it to the march since the bus could only get us a couple miles away from the starting point.

I bus-befriended a couple about my age (Late 30s? 40-ish?) named Derek and Corinne. They were married, had kids at home. They didn’t have bus cards and seemed unfamiliar with the transit system. They seemed very squeaky clean and square. They were wearing matching official sweatshirts from the march website. They had painfully clean and unfashionable blue jeans in exactly the same shade. They had bright new sneakers. They didn’t seem like activists. Later as we were walking up Jackson with streams of crowds to meet the march, Corinne said “We’re teachers. This is our fourth protest this week.”

The huge marches have been well-covered everywhere that attempts to report news honestly. It took me so long to get home, and I was so cold and stiff and tired, that I’m writing this the next morning, a little removed now from the glow that the marches generated. But it felt good to see tidings pouring in from all over the world–some of them through the conduit of my mom: “They’re marching in Bergen, Norway!!!” she texted me. Everyone everywhere was marching and basking in a new feeling of empowerment. And I think we knew it was a temporary feeling–but any relief from the horror of watching Trumpism take over was so welcome. And there was the hope that we could revive and use the feeling we found together marching.

Well, not everyone was feeling the glow. Near the end of the march, after a couple friends had splintered off, I sat down on a curb to rest and look at the news of other marches. I saw a Facebook post from Ijeoma Oluo that made me sad. She said she was crying because all these white women weren’t there for Black Lives Matter. Several hundred people emphatically agreed with her and expressed their own raw feelings in the comments. After several minutes I had to distance myself from the pain, had to tell myself we’d look forward and try to do better in the future. Because I can’t help anyone by falling down a shame spiral. Self-reflection is my best subject in school, so you know, I’ve BEEN feeling bad already. I had only this one afternoon to feel this togetherness and possibility, and that was what I wanted to feel.

Met up with the writer Ma’Chell Duma outside Key Arena and we sat cross-legged on the wide steps and had a laughing, sometimes gruesome conversation about our personal lives, writing, goals, feminism in Seattle, hope for the future, what Hillary’s up to — it was an unexpected meeting of the minds separate from the march, even as tired marchers still floated past  us with their signs. This too felt subversive. It reminded me that every time two women even have coffee and talk for half an hour, there’s a spark of resistance. Like they say, God is in the space between two people.

Getting home was even harder than getting to the march. On the bus home, I saw the news of Sean Spicer’s press conference — the first press conference — used to harangue the press about their reporting on crowd size. He lied. And he was obviously sent up there to lie. And then he took no questions from the press. It was absurd but also chilling. I was reminded of a sign I’d seen earlier in the day: “If they can get us to BELIEVE ABSURDITIES, they can get us to COMMIT ATROCITIES.” 

And when I got home, and staggered into bed, I just sleepily looked at pink-hued aerial crowd photos and nodded off knowing that I’d fight like hell in the morning and drag as many of my sisters along with me as I could.

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