I hate being in large crowds but had to be at Boston Common yesterday for the local version of the Women’s March occurring in hundreds of cities around the nation and on all continents. As with anti-Vietnam War marches in the late sixties and early seventies, this was a time to stand up and be counted, to bear witness to certain important values at a critical time in the history of our country. Will the emotional outpouring amount to anything more than a feel-good day? Only if the energy displayed translates into action. As one speaker exhorted, “Organize around your issue. Show up with your allies for other issues.”
The purpose of the march, as Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, was to make sure that “as our country enters a new political era, the voices of the people will be heard.” She made it clear that what’s at stake are Roe v. Wade, gay rights, tuition debt, pensions, Social Security, climate, equal pay and more. “We can whimper, we can whine, or we can fight back,” she said. “We won’t play dead.”
It was gratifying to see young women and girls there, perhaps beginning to learn what the older generation had to fight for, and what may now be in jeopardy. Much of the day’s story was told in the handmade signs: “Our bodies, our minds, our power;” “Us and Them;” “Less Grope, More Hope,” “Show up, Dive in, Stay at it,” “If I incorporate my uterus, will you stop regulating my body?” “Privileged white woman seeking truth, justice and equality for all,” “I march against racism, sexism, xenophobia.” There were speeches from African-American, white, Muslim and Latina women, immigrants, and others maligned by Donald Trump. All manner of activists were heard from, including unions and Native Americans from regional tribes some marchers didn’t even know lived here.
So will yesterday’s huge turnout matter? As Boston Mayor Marty Walsh noted, “It’s not what we do today that counts; it’s what we do tomorrow.” The battle, however, will not be won in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states. We are already in a bubble, and the crowd in the Boston Common was a bubble within a bubble.
In addition to buoying each other up, we need somehow to be communicating with Trump supporters here and elsewhere in the country. If we want block a dangerous agenda, we need to provide resources and encouragement to women who marched yesterday in Trump locations like Little Rock and Phoenix. They need to be in the vanguard of activism, confronting their politicians at a grassroots level.
We need to move beyond our comfort zone bubbles and find common ground on economic issues with people who voted for Trump. Trying to understand their fears and anxieties doesn’t mean selling out our commitments on issues affecting women, gays, people of color, Muslims, the disabled. Donald Trump, his acolytes in Congress and his soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice now have the power to reverse the course of history. The Women’s March must be Step One in a concerted movement to stop them.
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