T Minus 104 Days to Midterms
In early January of 2017, I texted my best friend and said: I feel like if I don’t go to DC on Jan. 21, I might regret it forever. She texted back: Me too. Let me see if I can find us a place to stay. (This is only one of the reasons she’s the best friend.)
Housing secured in five minutes, she began to knit hats. We drove to DC on January 20, inauguration day.
I was born in 1970, likely at the height of American protests just far too young to know it. I remembered watching marches and protests in Venezuela and thinking I wonder what would have to happen here to make people do this again.
Then we were in Washington. The people, the crowds, the signs — oh the signs. The chants. “This is what democracy looks like.” I can still hear the sound in my ears and it brings tears to my eyes. “We are not going away — welcome to your first day.” Probably my favorite.
And while the women’s march in DC was something I will never forget — and I happily have no regrets — being at the March for our Lives a year later at home in Columbus, Ohio, felt more real. For one thing, our signs were significantly improved. Larger, double sided, wrapping paper tubes as handles (lightweight and sturdy), duct tape around the edges. “Let me tell you the sign-making skills I’ve learned from all my protest march experience,” said aforementioned best friend. This was our second march. We were sure it wouldn’t be our last.
For another thing, the march was here. These were kids in my city determined to change things. The speakers here were our high school students, our siblings of citizens of my city who had died from gunshot wounds. A Somali mother stood up and spoke so passionately, I imagined that she might end up on city council one day. A girl spoke of a boy who had been shot in the street days after he helped her get her car started. These were our children. Dying. Fighting to live.
I’m an Xer. We don’t believe anyone will listen, we don’t believe anything will change. The boomers fought against a war and then they didn’t pay attention to their kids, they didn’t think we’d amount to anything, and we let ourselves believe it too. So they still run the country. The people in power are so afraid to give it up that they can’t even do a single thing just because it’s right. They can’t sacrifice their re-election bid to take a stand against evil. In the gerrymandered congressional district adjoining mine, Pat Tiberi resigned rather than even face his constituents, some of whom hung posters around town with his face under the words “Have you seen this man?”
The world is heaving. You can feel it. It’s painful and frightening. It’s terribly sad. This country is not what I was able to pretend it was for a long time. But it will change. And I’m so glad for it.
We are not going away. Welcome to your first day.