The Women's Marches were a historic show of resistance against Donald Trump.
The resistance continues, as it must. Many ongoing and future protests will likely be smaller than the Women's Marches. We might, then, begin to see some folks publicly conclude that the resistance is losing momentum. Some might contend that smaller crowd sizes are evidence that more privileged anti-Trump groups "don't care about" other issues. It's further conceivable that the Trump administration might put limits on people's rights to peacefully assemble and speak out.
In light of these possibilities, I contend that the following observations can all be true.
One. Many people who participated in the Women's Marches were united in opposition to Trump but less united around the full spectrum of issues that were represented at the protest. Many protestors might not, in fact, fully understand or care about these other issues. The Marches may have been some people's first ever protest. Some people may not be all that politically engaged.
Of some of the intra-left critiques of imperfect protestor newbies, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, writing at The Guardian references a "political immaturity" that "continues to stunt the growth of the American left." She writes:
"If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed, then you and your select friends should go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump.The anti-Trump resistance has a broad base, as he has offended, angered, and scared so very many people. As a lifelong athlete, I feel further compelled to observe just how detrimental Trump's ongoing gloating, through his victory tour and need to constantly re-live his "win" of an election in which he lost the popular vote, has been to building unity and peace. That goes for the schadenfreude of his fans, as well, who post meme after meme delighting in liberal tears.
Should the marches have been more multiracial and working class? Yes! But you are not a serious organizer if that’s where your answer to the question ends. The issue for the left is how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner and more working class. Simply complaining about it changes nothing.
The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths."
I will put it this way. I was once on a team that lost a bruising, nail-biting game at the last second and then, afterwards, watched some mean-ass people excessively celebrate and taunt us. Some of the folks on my team didn't particularly like each other, but every one of us from that day forward disliked that other team more. We spent the entire off-season with one goal in mind, defeating them the next season.
And, we did.
My point here is that even seasoned activists opposed to Trump are going to disagree. Many people new to social justice are going to be clueless at first, and possibly even offensive. But never underestimate how a dangerous, despicable, gloating foe can unite a broad range of people. Which leads to the following:
Two. Regardless of whether a person supported Hillary Clinton, her campaign motto was right. We are Stronger Together. We need to show up for each other, even if we're not (or don't think we are) directly affected by some of Trump's policies, or even if we think some issues are more important than others.
White women, for instance, must show up for racial justice, especially if our presence at Black Lives Matter protests might mean that police officers are less likely to use force against protestors. Men must show up for reproductive rights, because men are both disproportionately in positions to restrict reproductive rights and men in power often listen to other men more than they listen women. Christians, especially as 92% of Congress is Christian, must show up for Muslims. These are just a few examples.
Trump won, in part, by declaring war on empathy, at least for anyone other than straight white cisgender Christian men (he calls empathy for other people "political correctness"). The callous disregard of other(ed) lives, we must resist. If we don't share particular experiences with other groups within the resistance, it behooves us to acknowledge our differences, listen, and allow ourselves to be checked - as difficult as that can be. Alicia Garza wrote, in a recent piece:
"This is a moment for all of us to remember who we were when we stepped into the movement — to remember the organizers who were patient with us, who disagreed with us and yet stayed connected, who smiled knowingly when our self-righteousness consumed us.Instead of automatically, pre-emptively assuming people won't resist with us, we need to ask people to resist with us. Many people care, yet are fearful and feel hopeless. Many want to tangibly work together and connect with others so they can be hopeful again. A march begins with a single step, but so too does every person's political journey. Many of us have become better people through the grace of those who took the time to teach us, even though they themselves were in pain. And, as a corollary, we should respect if and when some groups want to discuss, dialogue, and vent about these issues in advanced space only, without us there.
I remember who I was before I gave my life to the movement. Someone was patient with me. Someone saw that I had something to contribute. Someone stuck with me. Someone did the work to increase my commitment. Someone taught me how to be accountable. Someone opened my eyes to the root causes of the problems we face. Someone pushed me to call forward my vision for the future. Someone trained me to bring other people who are looking for a movement into one.
No one is safe from the transition this country is undergoing. While many of us have faced hate, ignorance and greed in our daily lives, the period that we have entered is unlike anything that any of us has ever seen before."
For two months now, my mind has been drawn back to an essay, "Do Not Go Gentle" by Roger Cohen, which The New York Times published at the end of last year. He places the awfulness of 2016 in both a personal and political context of loss, saying:
"It's not excess of love we regret at death's door, it's excess of severity. If we lived every day as the last day of our lives, the only quandary would be how to find the time to shower love on enough people. We live distracted and die with too much knowledge to bear."And still, he notes, "this is a time to rage, a time to heed Dylan Thomas: 'Rage. Rage against the dying of the light.'" Surely, in this era in which the leader of the (still) free world is, to quote Laurie Penny, "a wailing man-baby with a hair-trigger temper who almost nobody feels comfortable having within five miles of the nuclear codes," the sharpness of our rage tempered by the discipline of empathy and patience are radical traits to cultivate within the resistance.
Cohen continues, "The most vulnerable parts of our nature are often those closest to our greatest gifts." Listen more. Heed your fear. Acknowledge your pain. Feel your rage. And, because you can't stand it any longer, demand better from the world.
Like Cohen, existential personal and political despair have led me to imagined conversations with those who have passed. For me, with one friend in particular, C, with whom I did not always agree politically, but who I yearn to speak with again - most of all about politics. I imagine she would be marching with us every step of the way. And, on the worst of days, reminding me of the secret note we used to hide for each other, per Margaret Atwood: nolites te bastardes carborundorum. Or, in Angela Davis' version of the sentiment, freedom is a constant struggle.
Three. Finally, as Melissa writes in the ongoing Resist posts:
"One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day."As some might try to define what "real resistance" looks like, please know that resistance will look different on different people, as we experience these horrors in unique ways dependent upon our own life circumstances. Resistance exists in acts small and large, everyday and once-in-a-lifetime, seen and unseen.
Consider, Time ran a piece on how the Women's Marches fit into the resistance against Trump:
"The face of that Democratic opposition--some call it the resistance--is female, which is to say it's a face that as a private citizen Trump liked to judge on a scale of 1 to 10, and as a candidate measured by worthiness of his sexual attention."Even so. Time's piece continued to frame the March as a mysterious anomaly. Ignoring the fact that many women were genuinely enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, the person who won more votes than any white male presidential candidate in US history ever, the piece held up Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both of whom held large talk-at-people rallies during their respective campaigns (in contrast to the smaller talk-with-people dialogues Clinton often held), as unique examples of recent, authentic social movements:
"Bernie Sanders' surprise following exploded from the young and the left. Trump's filled auditoriums in states both blue and red, and carried him to the most powerful position on earth."Everywhere, many in establishment media, and even social justice circles, seem mystified as to what resistance looks like on many women and even as to why many women are outraged. It's like a new spin on the eternal misogynistic question: What do women want? Except the people asking never seem to listen to or care about many women's responses. They shrug, What is a Pantsuit Nation? And then go run another billion stories on who they deem the ordinary people - those angry white men, whose navel dust they can't seem to get enough of.
So, here's my Helpful Hint: Yes, It Was Misogyny that many women are reacting to. And, many women are now primed to present a united front as part of an intersectional resistance, even if some or many of them (sadly) were not before.
As we continue resisting the horrors the Trump administration inflicts upon the populace, I hope we are compassionate with ourselves and those who are resisting with us. I hope we integrate self-care into our lives, if we haven't already, so we do not burn out or become numb or complacent. I hope we reject definitions of "real resistance" that might be centered around acts that are convenient or safest for more privileged members of the resistance, such as young, childless white men and able-bodied individuals.
With many women disproportionately in caregiver roles, for instance, spontaneously showing up for protests isn't always a feasible option. Neither is it for those who might have limited mobility or lack of funds to travel to protest locations. Remember: the Women's March was planned for two months in advance, surely impacting the high turnout rates, as many male partners assumed child-rearing duties so women in their lives could travel and march.
Resistance is a marathon and we must take care of ourselves and each other. Never forget that we are many and that not one of us has to resist alone. Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Laurie Penny says, "millions of snowflakes together can make an avalanche."
At Shakesville, teaspoon by teaspoon, we empty the sea.