Today is an important day in history. Today, thousands of people are taking to the streets in Washington, D.C. and cities across the country, standing up to a new administration and its policies that would have them stand aside. I am not marching today–I am home with my children–but my heart and thoughts are with the marchers. Of course, there is a lot of opposition to this protest–you need only open your favorite social media site to see that. And, of course, a lot of the opposition is missing the point. Baby killers, they say. Quit whining, they say. Planned Parenthood is not a civil right, they say (many of them completely unaware of the true spectrum of work that Planned Parenthood does). But today is not just about one issue. And while you can easily argue that women, minorities, the LGBT community, and the disabled have all made advances over the years, telling us to quit whining is a weak response to a problem that many don’t and would rather not understand. And maybe I don’t understand it fully myself, because I am a privileged, straight white woman who has never needed the services of Planned Parenthood, who has never been sexually assaulted, and has never been part of the patriarchal corporate world.
I am not usually a politically vocal person. But there’s a line that keeps running through my head–a bit of our national anthem, actually, that’s taken on a new tone for me as we move into an era where new legislation looks to the past instead of the future, where my friends’ marriages might no longer be legal, where my access to birth control might be limited, where my children’s educational opportunities stand on shifting ground.
Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
It’s no longer the presence of the flag that we look to–that is visibly waving all around us–but the land it’s waving over? I’ve got a bad feeling about it. But I do know one thing: If we want to live in the land of the free, then we’ve got to be brave.
In the grand scheme, I risk very little by saying my piece. The negative opinion of family members who might disagree with me, some social awkwardness at family gatherings, some potentially uncomfortable or angry conversations. It’s something I fear because I have the privilege to fear it, because my life is so comfortable that these burrs can feel like bullets. But I believe that diversity makes our country stronger, that profiling and stereotypes are instincts that must be overcome, and that each individual’s story is a thread in our beautiful national tapestry. I believe that people are inclined to reduce things to black and white but I’m not sure those colors actually exist. I don’t know how to expunge the hatred from human hearts–it is most likely impossible–and surely, while watching news of today’s protests, the hatred in some hearts is growing. The marches might not change any policies, nor will my five hundred words on the subject, but it’s all part of the discourse. Much of the trouble in our country, on both sides of the political divide, seems to come from a feeling of not being valued, not being cared for, not being heard. We need to start hearing each other, and to stop shouting each other down. We need to do the hard work of thinking about each other, our problems and perspectives, and to figure out ways of coexisting.