Like millions of people all over this country and the world for that matter, I took to the streets to join the Woman's March in the wake of the Trump inauguration. While the new administration quibbles about the numbers of people who attended the inauguration and how many participated in the marches, the following day, a few facts do emerge. In most of the large U.S. cities the numbers in attendance were far larger than expected. Thousands larger.
Here in Portland, that was certainly the case. The prediction called for as many as 30,000, but in reality the figures were more like 50-75,000. Standing cheek by jowl in the street, looking in every direction, seeing bridges blocked with folks carrying signs, and noticing people pour into the area as fast as the rain came down, it felt like 100,000 people were there.
And who were they? They were everybody. They were children and the elderly. They were Black and Brown, Native and Asian, trans-genderded and questioning. They were peaceful, angry, confused, afraid, and wise. They rode on backpacks, in wheel chairs, on the shoulders of parents and relatives, and moved with walkers, or their own two feet. They moved when they could, because mostly they were standing in packed stacks. Signs, original signs, funny signs, deadly serious signs were everywhere.
The signs screamed misogyny, inequality, grabbing back, and human rights. They contained caricatures, clever slogans and eye catching art. "Make America Think Again," Tweeting is not Leading," and one particularly poignant one simply stating, "Muslims are peaceful people."
We stood in the street for hours, we stood in rain, for hours, we sang a bit, we smiled at our new neighbors, we helped with an older person's needs or a child's frustrations, when we could, we knew why we were there and we felt active in the act of passive resistance.
Inevitably, I was reminded of a March I attended 47 years ago in Washington D.C. The President was different as were the issues. But back then Mr. Nixon, was aware that thousands were in the street demanding an end to the U.S. misadventure in Vietnam. It rained that day too. The bridge over the Potomac River was gridlocked too. That march, and the ones that came before it and after it did have impact. This week I've been given the opportunity to remind my friends that participated in their first march to never forget that these efforts do have impact. That social change moves much slower than we'd like it to, but it does move. That the future will not unfold as our most fearful misgivings, that there will be uncertainty. Beautiful, helpful, meaningful uncertainty.
As events unfold, it seems clear that a good pair of marching shoes/boots will be a wise investment. It won't rain every time and perhaps a few new songs will make their presence felt.