“When written in Chinese, the word crisis is represented by two characters, one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy
They came in unprecedented numbers from every corner of the nation, from cities and small towns, hamlets and suburbs, demonstrating for fundamental human rights, and for free speech and assembly, while sharing gifts of homemade cookies and snacks, sandwiches and fruit, protein bars and bottles of water, while sporting bright pink hats. So many symbols of the event were being worn that a running joke became, “If we get separated, just look for my pink hat.”
The young and elderly and in-between; the longtime veterans of activism along with the just-now-woke beginners, chanting the new “We Will Not Go Away, Welcome To Your First Day! ” as well as the standard “Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like, This Is What Democracy Looks Like! ” took over the streets of downtown Washington DC.
The Women’s March was historic, conjuring an unprecedented amount of positive energy and citizens, not just in DC, but throughout the country and world – through 673 Sister Marches on every continent including Antarctica, in countries such as Aruba and Botswana and Iraq, Congo and Ireland, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.
OPN joined in this historic event, and while waiting to depart by bus in the early morning hours of January 21st, the damp air was thick with a noticeable bit of apprehension, but also present was an unmistakable exhilaration -a fierce resolve to stand up and fight back- to not allow the presidency of Donald J. Trump to become an era of hate and hostility, divisiveness and oppression. To declare a unified No! to allowing an aggressive minority’s bullying and Gaslighting us all into a hierarchy of the obscenely wealthy few to rule by decree over the many.
The official march was abandoned due to the volume of people filling not just the official route, but every parallel and side street feeding into it from all directions. Love was in the air. Strangers high-fived, fist bumped and hugged each other and every so often, miles away in the distance you’d hear the beginnings of another “Sound Wave” traveling towards you from all directions in a joyous cacophony until it washed over everyone, and you couldn’t help but join in. Not so much a scream, but a celebration of solidarity, followed by applause and laughter and broad smiles and a few happy tears. Is this is what Democracy feels like?
“It’s important to show our presence in these numbers. It’s important for us to keep sending fierce messages to Trump and members of Congress that we will take every action to keep them from implementing an agenda based on racism, authoritarianism and corruption. We will not stay silent, we will roar.”
Athena Frances Harden, Women’s March participant, Wilkinsburg PA
People marched and sang and shouted, and carried creative signs of expression, and surprisingly not one arrest was made anywhere. This was a celebration of the Power of the People via love, as much as an affirmation and new declaration of undeniable and fundamental human rights.
But… can success be measured by the number of people participating on one day or how many arrests were made? Or instead, should January 21st be a new starting point within the ongoing war against the people and perpetuation of social and economic injustice that the unholy trinity of banks, Wall Street and corporations have been waging against the 99% since those institutions were first invented. At no time in our nation’s history has there been so much of an economic divide due to the inherent corruption of, and merger of, State and Corporate power. What was somewhat covert and unnoticed by most, is now overt and being rubbed in the faces of all Americans; the supreme elevation of profit over people.
Overheard throughout the day in various forms was “How did this happen?” and “What will we do from here?” The answers to the first question are many, are complicated, and came to be over time. One very big reason is that multibillion dollar corporations own over 90% of all TV, radio, newspapers and publishing companies who dominate the airwaves and print media, and their boards of directors are incestuous in membership. First through the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, then the Telecommunications Act, over time they gleefully merged into giant mega-corporations whose interests lie in bottom line record profits every 3 months, rather than speaking truth to power and holding government and corporations in check. And yet, even they are being brutally attacked by even more ruthless corporatists for daring to even feebly question authority.
A free press is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution as a means to protect the people against tyranny and oppression. Now we find ourselves in an Orwellian world with an official narrative that obscures reality, or denies it outright via “Alternative Facts” and protects the powerful from accountability. If we can’t distinguish fact from fiction, we cannot determine what is real- the very definition of Gaslighting. Too many of our fellow citizens are easily fooled by this insidious propaganda and some sadly, don’t really care what the facts are. But being spoon-fed every day the easily digestible slogans and non-answers to complex issues along with being handed ready scapegoats, they become more angry and miserable while blaming their fellow citizens instead of the source for their troubles.
As to “What can we do?” -that lies within all of us. Everyone must now be some type of activist, organizer or citizen journalist. Marches, especially very large gatherings, are great for engaging people in solidarity and baptizing new activists, but the energy will naturally dissipate over time. Not every march or gathering will be large and glorious, but if you look around your community, there are rallies and protests and organizing happening. They may be hard to notice, within the cocoon of personal privilege and bread-and-circuses distractions like binge sports watching and petty tribalism. Our local media helps to create and maintain the divide with ‘If it bleeds, it leads” coverage, causing fear amongst even the slightly better off, rather than empathy for the plight of worse off fellow citizens across town, or a few streets over, trying to survive on subsistence wages in the “New Economy”. In other words, the status quo in the not-so-new economy.
The initial planning of the Women’s March began with controversy and division, and in Pittsburgh these initial problems caused a large rift which produced two different marches. A gap that has yet to be bridged. It’s uncertain if or when all who are part of the local Resistance will be able to set aside differences and heal the deep wounds revealed publicly, but which have always existed. So, where do we go from here?
“I have been reading and reflecting on white privilege and bought a book on intersectionality so that I can be an informed and effective ally. I fear that Trump’s law and order mentality will reverse any progress we’ve made with community relations.”
Sarah Benson, Women’s March participant, Pittsburgh
The hard work now begins. It’s more difficult to fight when you are not surrounded by a million like-minded people and when it feels as though your efforts aren’t making a difference. But progress can’t be measured by attendance numbers. All good citizens must take the energy, solidarity and spark of this historic event into their personal lives and communities. Get involved in your local organizations, and reach out to those across town. Educate yourselves, check your privilege and bridge the divide. Consider taking part in a Black Lives Matter or other protest. Ask how you can help. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but if you do, ask for forgiveness and guidance. And if you witness any of your fellow citizens being put at risk because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or other reason, speak up: If you see something, do something.
“I’m going to talk to people, challenge and educate them. And keep an eye on what’s going on. We can’t allow this to become normal.”
Amy, Women’s March participant, South Hills of PA
Call and write your local and federal representatives regularly and share your concerns, and remind them that they work for all of us, not the monied interests. Do not allow them or the corporate media to divide and conquer us. Be a Digital Warrior – share information via email and social media. Join a group already working for justice. Below is a list of a few in the Pittsburgh area. Take the time to explain what is happening to your children- the future of humanity and Democracy.
“I already had a little bit of a foundation for action and volunteering… however I definitely plan to redouble my efforts. I became a monthly donor to the ACLU, I’m going to become a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood and I’m going to make it a point to take part in more public actions and certainly a lot more calling of my State legislators.”
Camille Goleb, Women’s March participant, Pittsburgh
The root of the word movement is move. In these dangerous times, we must seize the opportunity in front of us by grabbing the future with our own hands, and with a fierce determination to rescue and maintain a government of the people. The Women’s March was either merely a temporary cathartic scream, or the beginnings of a unified voice and Movement of the People. It’s up to everyone to define that by their actions going forward. You don’t have to do everything, but do something. Be the Resistance.
To contribute your skills or energy to a Free Press: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Thomas Merton Center
http://thomasmertoncenter.org/ Fight Back Pittsburgh
http://fightbackpittsburgh.org/ Daily Action
https://www.aclupa.org/ Civil Liberties Defense Center
https://cldc.org/ Planned Parenthood
https://www.plannedparenthood.org PA State Legislature Directory