I often write to cope, but the recent election left me feeling like I needed something more. This was my experience.
The crowd of marching people flowed up the street like a river, forceful, energetic. But viewed from the outside, they are like a wall. How can you go from walking down the sidewalk, on your way home from an errand or work, to shouting in the streets? How can you go from holding your partner’s hand, to making a fist and pumping it in the air? There’s a barrier there.
I wanted to join in, but did I have the right? I’m not a protester. I don’t volunteer regularly. I donate and vote, but I don’t speak. And I don’t shout.
“Off the sidewalk, into the street!” seemed at once difficult and dangerously easy. What would I become if I took that step?
I became a whirlwind. A sweaty, screaming, jubilant, hopeful, stomping whirlwind. I screamed “Black Lives Matter”, “A rapist, a racist, he doesn’t represent us!”, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, misogyny has got to go!”
I met Betsy, who chanted “My body, my choice!” in Roe v. Wade marches over forty years ago. I met a girl who had posted a piece of paper that simply said “NO” to the head of a Swiffer mop. A guy we marched next to passed us a bottle of Jameson. For the first time, I was among my community and making myself heard.
And it felt so good. After a day of feeling a hazy mixture of fear, disappointment, and like I’d had the rug swept out from under me, marching and shouting crystallized my existence for a moment and made one thing very clear.
This is necessary. Protest is this nation’s prophylactic against the birth of civil war. I know I can’t change what happened. I probably can’t even change your mind. And that’s fine.
Because this is my healing. This is how I’ll cope. When I shouted “My body, my choice!” I meant it. When I shout it in the future, I’ll mean it. When I stand in front of armed officers, with their batons held ready, I hope you see my bravery. I hope you see that this means something to me, that I would go out into the night and march until my feet hurt and my throat is raw. I’m not pouting. And I mean you no harm. I’m simply telling you, this is where I stand.
The election wasn’t won or fought with silence, and it won’t be laid to rest in silence.
Because now I know where I can put all those words I feel rush into my brain when I see the people living on the corner of my street, when I hear people I know talk about ‘them’, when I feel the helpless knowledge that what you are telling me is reality isn’t what I see.
I’ll put my words into the air and catch others up in the whirlwind.