New Vigilance (#2/52)
8 years ago I was in Washington D.C. in January for President Barack Obama’s inauguration to his first term in office. What I most remember was how bitterly cold it was, and also how that made the crowd all the more determined to be together to celebrate this person and this new leadership. We needed it after years of mistrust and horrible application of government power which had led our country into unjust wars and left many hopeless.
Bundled people huddled in hats, scarves, and blankets sang spirituals in the crowd, old and young people together from every walk of life. We were excited for many things, excited for the first African American president and first family that felt like a completion of the legacy from the Civil Rights Era, excited for change, hoping for empowerment. As far as I can remember, there was no counter-protest. Or if there was, it was small and ineffective.
This year, 2017, I’ll be back at the inauguration site for a completely different reason. I’ll stand with thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, or people from all over to protest a morally corrupt and power greedy administration that will likely take away the rights of many and make life harder for those Americans and citizens of this country not blessed with privilege that gives them a voice.
I’ll be standing with women leaders and many others at the Women’s March on Washington. It will likely be chaotic at times, but this is a chaotic moment. Our country has had many good moments and many hard moments over the past eight years. Attending the inauguration in protest is a new moment for clarity and resistance.
Barack Obama’s presidency was imperfect, and a legacy of drone use and botched immigration reform (to name a few) will follow him. Concurrently, his years and his private/public relationship to the citizenry, through his communication skills and what is widely accepted as personal integrity, were able to fill people with a sense of hope: something he campaigned on and finished on. His ability to thoughtfully discuss issues transparently with the press, to make speeches which were both heartfelt and empathetic while also being firm in their resolve, and his ease at holding opposing views in tension while trying to argue for a fair solution — these are the characteristics that my generation saw in Barack Obama, and they are the ones we are sure to remember him for. He was the only president in our memories that avoided personal scandal, near-impeachment, or outright corruption. The only president to say he was a feminist. His laws and reforms will speak for themselves in the history that lives on.
His farewell speech reminded me that there is a contiuum, morning comes after dark, sometimes dark follows the light. Change happens. But at what cost to our nation and its people, especially its most vulnerable citizens, and its children? We must be vigilant.
I go back to Washington D.C. as an older woman, as an adult with 8 new years of experience, as someone who has fought and lost and achieved and failed, and as someone who can smell a rat. We don’t even have a new president yet, and already scandal and corruption are wafting down the halls of government.
A brave new vigilance is going to rise. We know what we’re doing by opposing this person, and we won’t turn back. Organizing has begun in enormous efforts (both local and national) throughout our country and the Women’s March on Washington D.C. is only going to reflect a small piece of that. We will stand for immigrants’ rights and sanctuary, for Muslim American’s lives, for Black lives, for women’s empowerment, for education, for healthcare, for truth.
Women can be and will have to be the strength our country needs to stand up to a force like the “Trump era,” and I can’t wait to see what we can do.