Marching For What?
We’ve all caved at some point and gone on a Facebook rant. Perhaps, that is this decade’s closest attempt to speak profoundly and poetically; Safely from their soapbox, surrounded by people who agree. However, most of us who have made a home for ourselves somewhere outside of the bubbles in which we came from have the luxury of being exposed to a polarizing dynamic on social media. We have the like-minded friends and colleagues who can’t fathom that those who oppose them could possibly be informed or humane. Then we have the other side: family and the friends we haven’t seen in over a decade, who feel like they are the true Americans. Not us brainwashed city folk. Both sides seem to leap at any chance to preach via comment or status update. Most of us try to navigate our way through our feeds trying not to become so huffy that we respond, unleashing the dragons. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fall into the trap and think “oh no, what did I just get into?” as soon as we hit send.
I was one of more than a million people to participate in the Woman’s March on Washington. It was my first time visiting Washington D.C. I was with a small group which consisted of women, men, gay, straight, old, young, immigrants, born citizens, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, black, white, Brazilian, and a range of religions. The march was overwhelmingly unified and positive. There was no violence or riots, and it turned out to be the biggest inaugural protest in U.S. history. Unfortunately, it was of no surprise that my friends and family down in Louisiana did not share in the joy of this historical demonstration. However, I was surprised to see how many women were speaking against the march. Including my mother. I thought, clearly they don’t understand what’s going on. They must be missing some crucial details which prevent them from realizing that we are fighting for their rights. I couldn’t bare the thought of going on a social media tirade.
I know I’m not alone in this disorienting imbalance of hope and disparagement. So hopefully this helps these two worlds understand each other.
There is the argument, “If you live in the U.S.A., you win. This is the greatest country the world has ever known.” Well, this is true. If you, by luck of the draw, have been born in America, or you’ve successfully proven yourself by earning your citizenship, then you, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability are, at least in one way privileged. You have more freedom and opportunities than you may have had in any other country. However, depending on your gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, your privileges may not be equal to others whom check off more of the preferred boxes in each category.
Diversity is the strength of this country. Over the course of American history, second class citizens have united and changed our government for the better. They protested. They protested peacefully, and they protested violently, and they persevered. Going back as far as the Boston Tea Party, protestors throughout history have allowed women to work, ended segregation, allowed both women and African Americans to vote, and have taken gay rights from an underground movement to a public one. Proving time and time again, that the ultimate privilege of being a U.S. citizen is democracy; the power ultimately lies within the people.
As a coalition, we have made so much progress to mature the principles that are the foundation of our nation. However, individually, each of these diverse communities and minorities have had their rights limited or threatened by the results of this election, and most have also been the victim of pubescent rhetorical abuse (bullying/ verbal assault/ bigotry) from our newly appointed “leader.” Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, with 65,844,954 (48.2 percent) to his 62,979,879 (46.1 percent), according to revised and certified final election results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Instead of being silent, helpless, and passive, all of these communities are once again coming together and folding their individual inequalities into one common goal: equality for all. This nation is no longer divided. We have joined together to form a movement; and as history has proven — this is how America metamorphoses.
There still seems to be a few who don’t understand motive behind the historical turn out of the “Women’s March on Washington.” I assume most of the people who don’t understand the march were probably fortunate enough to never feel like a second-class-citizen the way that women and minority communities feel. This is what people mean by privileged. “Privileged” seems to now be taken as a derogatory term; it is not. The simplest explanation is that to be called privileged, is to be called lucky. You have advantages in life which you did not earn, but simply inherited at birth by chance. To be privileged is also not a blanket statement. For example, I am a college educated white man who was born in America and raised catholic. Therefore, I am privileged. However, as a gay working class person, I am among those communities who do not have equal rights in this country. None of us are truly free until we are treated equally. The unpretentious test for all of us is to understand the injustices for those who are not privileged in the ways that we are, and empathize with their fight for an equal playing field in this country. The counter side to that is for the underprivileged to realize that their fellow Americans who are oppressing them, are doing so because they don’t understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. Unfortunately, egotism is natural and sometimes involuntary. This is not about anyone’s choices or work ethic; it’s about making sure all Americans have the right to the same opportunities to excel, regardless of the cards they are dealt at birth.
“Jesus, take the wheel,” seems to be a common semblance for our current situation. “It doesn’t matter who is president, because we are one nation, under God. Jesus is the only true king.” This is also a pretty popular response to the election and the protest. It seems to be forgotten that God gave us free will; the freedom to make mistakes. Mistakes have consequences, which God holds us accountable for. Spare God, take some responsibility for how you are treating “thy neighbor.” The phrase, “Jesus take the wheel,” metaphorically means that, like a car in a blizzard, things are spinning out of control; you are helpless and the only thing you can do is hope for the best and let Jesus take over the steering wheel. Well, we are not spinning out of control. Please, do not ask Jesus to take the wheel because you are too lazy or overwhelmed to push through the shit storm that you just drove into. We are still in control. Jesus is busy, drive your own damn car.
Before we give up and leave this disaster for the powers that be to fix, we are working together. We are unifying with other citizens who are underprivileged. Why would a white man like myself drive to the nation’s capitol to be just one more person in a sea of women fighting for their rights? Women are fighting against misogyny. Fighting for equal pay the work force, the ability to make the choices about their own bodies and livelihood… you know, equality. Women’s rights are my rights because we are ALL fighting for equality. Personally am fighting for Gay rights, health care, affordable education, and equal opportunity for people who I care deeply about- as well as total strangers. Until every human, regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, is given equal rights, we are contributing to a society of oppression. If you truly believe in equality, then you have fight for other people rights as if they were your own. Its unrealistic to expect everyone to agree, but I’d like to believe its possible for people to not criticize others for taking a stance for what’s right.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on January 25, 2017.