I’ve marched before. Twice. Once in the Forsyth County Civil Rights March in Georgia in 1987 and once at the Pro Choice March in DC in 1992. This past Saturday, 25 years later, I was back on the streets, marching in the Women’s March in Portland, Maine.
I debated about participating. I’m an apolitical creature and find the world of politics uncomfortable, if not repellent. I vote and I educate myself about the issues (well, to be honest, not all of them, but most of them), but that’s about it. I don’t like talking politics and I don’t enjoy listening to political coverage. In all honesty, I also just wanted to spend a quiet day at home.
Since the election, however, I’ve been pondering whether I need to do more and what that might look like. What is my responsibility when I see our country divided by hatred and led by someone whose behavior and agenda is abhorrent to me–someone whose behavior, in fact, would warrant intervention in an elementary school? Isn’t silence a form of passive acceptance? What can I do to support the causes I believe in? Voting simply doesn’t seem like enough.
“I’m thinking about marching on Saturday,” I told my husband.
“Why?” he asked. “It doesn’t make a difference.”
“But it does,” I protested, “to me, if not to anyone else.”
The more I thought about it,the more I realized that I needed to take a stand for what I believe in. Perhaps one voice doesn’t matter, but one voice added to many ups the volume. I wanted and needed to be a part of the gathered crowd, to raise their numbers by one, and to add my weight to the message of inclusion and equity. I kept thinking about that last little Who in Horton Hears a Who–the one who tipped the raised voices from inaudible to audible. We each need to do our part, no matter how small. So, I decided to participate, and my husband (as dismayed at recent events as I am though much more cynical) opted to accompany me.
Arriving in Portland, it was easy to follow the stream of sign-bearing pedestrians to the march. People were smiling, laughing, singing. Music flowed from the open windows of neighborhood residents and occasional drum beating filled the air. Motorists beeped car horns and cheered in support as they passed the throngs.
We stood and watched the march for a while, reading the signs, watching the people, reveling in the positive energy. Then together, we stepped in. We marched and chatted with those around us. Every so often, we’d make our way to the edges of the marching crowd again and watch the continual flow of people and placards moving through the city and we marveled at the turnout. Periodically the crowd would burst into chanting. What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like! or No hate! No fear! Everyone is welcome here! The energy was so positive, so up-lifting.
Saturday’s marches were the largest one-day protest in the history of the United States. While I remain appalled by much of what is going on in our country, I am deeply thankful that in this country I can march in protest and publicly support causes not supported by the president. At the end of the day, a day where I realized how many are willing to get up and take a stand, I was also hopeful for the first time in a long, long time.