Today the world saw Donald Trump inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. For many people, myself included, Trump stands against almost every world view I hold. I could go into it more, but I wanted to focus on writing about the Women’s March in Austin tomorrow. Today had me thinking a lot about my own personal political history. My own story arch, if you will.
I marched in my first protest about 13 years ago when I was 18-years-old back in 2004. I just moved to New York City for college and marches were being held to protest the Iraq war. My RA had organized the group that was going to the protest. I remember she wrote the number to a lawyer on our legs in black Sharpie in case we got arrested. That day 200,000 people showed up to protest the war that day. I had been living in New York for about a week. And I don’t ever remember being afraid.
Since then, I haven’t attended as large of a protest. When I learned about the Women’s March, I was on the fence about going. Never a fan of crowds, I told myself I would have panic and anxiety. Then I had a long talk with myself about not letting panic control my life. Then I learned a lot of people I knew from work were going. And so were some of my other friends. So I decided, OK, I have to do this.
Honestly, I think it will be a good way to me to understand what’s happening in our country. I feel like it will give me a better sense of belonging to my community. I don’t think marching is the only way to do this, it’s just one way to express political beliefs and exercise rights afforded to us as Americans.
Originally I wasn’t going to make a sign. Firstly, I hate having my photo taken and people tend to take photos of other people with signs. Also, I hate carrying stuff. But the more I thought about it, I realized I wanted a clear and concise way to share what I was feeling. But what was I feeling? I’m tired of feeling sad, I’m all cried out. So I can’t say I’m sad, though yes, I am profoundly unsettled about Trump being President.
My first ideas started off superficially blunt. “Trump has small hands!” That’s not a very good sign and it’s demeaning to someone’s appearance, which I don’t think gets anyone very far in an argument. Then I came up with, “Trump is awful.” Clear, concise and straightforward. That could work.
I eventually came around to realizing I wanted to convey something positive.While I’m a worst case scenario planner, I am not inherently a negative person. I do believe in our country and that we can do better and that we deserve better than this. This morning I found myself re-listening to Obama’s 2008 election night speech. The last paragraph resonated with me:
This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
Hope has always been an important concept to me. Having lived in South Carolina, I remembered the state motto–dum spiro spero, which is Latin for “While I breathe, I hope.” This is what I felt compelled to put on a sign. Not because it was catchy, but because it’s the truth. I hope that things will get better. I hope that people won’t be hurt by the laws that are about to change. I hope we can find strength to stand up for the things we believe in and find important. But hope isn’t enough on it’s own. There must be action or it’s shallow.