Two movements, one city
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The day of the presidential inauguration, my Trump-supporting uncle texted my mother. For two years, the presidential campaign has divided our family and nation.
4:38 AM: “Time to make America Great Again.”
4:38 AM: “What time is your speech?”
4:39 AM: “11:45. I’m introducing him.”
4:39 AM: “I’ll go to the inauguration today if you go to the march tomorrow.”
4:39 AM: “March?! What March?”
4:40 AM:“Oh it must’ve been fake news.”
4:40 AM: “CNN: Clinton News Network.”
After the inauguration of the 45th president, I was busy buying poster board and a thick black marker to make a sign for the Women’s March on Washington. My message had to be simple. Half the nation had been represented at the inauguration, and the other half would speak out at the march.
Hate and divisiveness could be present, even in a march that was advertised as peaceful. I decided on a neutral message: “THINK LOVE.”
On the morning of the march, I carried my sign into Shady Grove Metro Station where a sea of pink knit hats surrounded my friends and me. Ironically, yesterday, the metro was filled with “Make America Great Again” caps. As we waited for Metro staff, who were working overtime, we discovered marchers who were from Connecticut to Ohio. So-called “nasty women” and a few good men were packing into D.C.’s public transportation system ready to chant, cheer, walk, and listen to great feminist icons such as Gloria Steinem. Yet, there was no nastiness–just excitement, camaraderie, and hope.
Sure, most of us represented the angry Left, but the streets we filled and flooded were blind as to who was on what side. In one of the most surreal moments in recent history, Trump’s most fervent supporters and his loudest opponents were all in the same city, the heart of our nation and democracy.
When we were squeezed out of the subway, the air that greeted us in D.C. was electric. We saw an eclectic assortment of signs that supported everything from Planned Parenthood to climate change action. Older women to small children and babies wondered at the colorful signs that popped against the gloomy gray sky as vendors sold buttons, shirts, and hats praising Obama and condemning Trump.
Did these vendors sell Trump memorabilia with the same fervor just 24 hours before?
My group walked by the Capitol, with its skeleton scaffolding from the inauguration masked in hazy fog. Crowd barriers and porta potties sat scattered beneath the flags from the previous day’s events. It was easy to imagine the ocean of rainbows as a sea of red, white, and blue yesterday. While there have been alternative facts about crowd sizes, I am sure the inspiring shoulder-to-shoulder sway of people was just as uplifting for those whose opinions were different than mine.
When we found a spot in the crowd on Independence Avenue where we could see a screen, Charlie Brotman, the inauguration announcer for the past 11 presidents, came on and announced the march with the same energy that Trump’s announcer Steve Ray had the day before. When Ashley Judd came out and gave her fiery poetic speech, I felt myself fill with pride just as so many of Trump’s supporters were filled with joy when his patriotic speech called for a greater America. When speakers called mass incarceration the new form of slavery, I yelled in support just as so many others had yelled in support of Trump’s call to end American “carnage.”
No singular speaker or quote, though, will stick out in my mind. It is the attitude of those who packed in between the iconic Washington, D.C. buildings. Grins splashed across my face and the faces of those around me. I was so proud to be a part of something so historic. I’m sure the inaugural crowds were proud, and we all are eager to tell our children one day that, “I was there.”
While the official march never actually happened because of the massive crowds, everyone was marching somewhere, even if no one actually marched in the same direction. Leaving the march, however, the scale of this movement became real to me. We tried pushing back through the crowd and realized we could not. There were so many people that moving was nearly impossible. Moving back towards the Metro stop was like walking through molasses. Even when we made it to the Metro stop the underground tunnel was still spewing hundreds of people from its depths. And yet no one was arrested, and there was no real fear or panic.
When I finally did leave the march, the energy in the air spelled hope for change, yet the looming shadow of a Trump presidency was also still a reality. I am not a fan of Trump or his policies. I hope he is held accountable for his discriminatory rhetoric and actions. His campaign promises are threatening. Even as I marched, I still love this country, and I love my uncle, even though he voted for a man I do not respect.
So as an American I will scream for action, but I need to keep telling myself: “THINK LOVE.”