Saturday was a big day in Portland. A big day everywhere. Even on our morning dog walk, we saw the hustle—the whole city getting ready to march. Families piling into cars, the kids carrying their very own homemade signs.
Katie showed up to my house right as a hard, cold rain began to fall. We walked to the train, joining a steady stream of people, and barely squeezed on the blue line headed downtown. Again, the whole city was here. The train had to blow through all the subsequent stops, its cars already packed to the gills.
Once downtown, you felt it. A swelling crowd, a swelling energy. It was palpable—it vibrated right through your rib cage. The masses were full of good will, but in general, the mood was somber.
As part of the event, there was a rally and a march, but we couldn’t get anywhere near the “rally” and so just stood around, and walked around, and couldn’t find our friends, and talked to people, and brushed shoulders with all walks of life, all ages. Before the march started, nobody knew what to do with themselves. What are we doing here? Shouldn’t we be DOING SOMETHING? You had to remind yourself, we are here to be here. Our presence is enough—it is, in fact, everything.
The rain fell harder, colder. We live in Portland. That’s what it does. My hair was soaked. I had full body goosebumps. My cardboard sign was disintegrating. All of it was just fine. Perfect even. Because why should it be easy? Baby, a little rain must fall.
Personally, I took the idea of “women’s march” very literally, and my signs reflect that. But I imagine people were there for a wild range of reasons, from fighting systemic racism to defending gay rights. One of my favorite signs addressed the new prez and simply said, “Grab a constitution.”
As an employed white women, I come from a place of privilege. And although the massive turnout for this march also, in its way, emphasized how we (“we” as liberal society) have NOT shown up when other minority issues where at stake in the past—we are here now.
Speaking strictly for myself, I was standing there in downtown Portland, Oregon, USA, to leverage my power and privilege in order to help people who are underserved in this country and to challenge the systemic mechanisms that infringe on the rights of people without power. Because it’s the right thing to do. (And because just complaining doesn’t do any damn good.)
I’ve heard/seen some arguments against marching, recently, online and from friends and frenemies. “Those people probably didn’t even vote, and now they’re out their protesting to be cool.” ????? A strange argument. I only know a few people who didn’t vote—they’re def not the ones protesting. I think this is a way of trying to take power away from the thing, so that one does not have to feel bad about oneself for not participating?
The “crybaby” argument. I reject this reasoning, because it’s the quickest route to taking the spotlight away from the issues, making it an us vs. them thing instead of an advocating for a little kind, calm thinking.
“Protesting doesn’t work.” As spoken by a generation that’s wayyyy too used to instant gratification. Sure, there is no direct route from A) protesting to B) change. You won’t see it on a road map. More like, it’s ripples in the pond. Get enough of them, and you make a wave.
Again, speaking only for myself, I can say that the more I did nothing, the more helpless I felt, like nothing you could ever do would ever make a difference because it’s all so depressingly, frustratingly, steam-coming-out-of-yer-ears fucked. However, when I started doing things, walking in the streets, sending emails, making a phone call, sending a postcard, I felt more hope, not less. Taking a little power back, it felt like. Sure, I don’t expect my actions to affect change. But OUR actions, well they might attract the kind of climate and universe in which kindness/compassion/common decency COULD HAPPEN. And wouldn’t that be radical?