Saturday was the second annual Women’s March. I missed it. I also missed the first march. I don’t know, maybe it’s just so much stuff in my life now is going crazy. I have this weight of other things hanging over my head, that this was just not a priority for me. I have friends, that are younger, that did the first march and lament that they did not for some reason participate this year. The time was not right for me.
Here are some facts that might shed some light on my perspective. I grew up in the seventies. It was a time of protest. Maybe the sixties were more known for it, but I certainly saw it often on the news in the seventies. I couldn’t wait to grow up and go stand outside some “evil” factory chain link fence with a protest sign or march down the street chanting for equality and burning my bra. That never happened.
By the time I got to college it was the eighties, a time of prosperity and relative peace, at least in my area. I would occasionally hear about a protest going on, usually Greenpeace related. If you went to the area where the protest was happening, there would be maybe twenty people huddled in a group holding five signs in Red Square on the UW campus. To those people it must have felt like being on a small raft in a sea of apathetic students passing by on their way to classes. I found ads in the classifieds for activist jobs. You could get paid to do this – make a living from protesting things? Somehow that seemed to take all the meaning out of it for me.
It was a bit of an eye opening experience. It wasn’t that people didn’t care about whales or whatever the protest was about, but the time was not right for that. Historically, you can look and see that events tend to pendulum back and forth. It’s not getting progressively better, but swinging back and forth along a fairly straight path; times of peace – times of conflict, times of prosperity – times of scarcity, times of hope – times of despair, times of enlightenment – times of ignorance. To some this might be disheartening, but if you think of it this way, it just means that if you are in a down swing, then things are heading towards an upswing. It is ingrained in human nature to keep us in that balance.
Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those protesters. There is something to be said for solidarity. Being part of a group, belonging, gives people a purpose, worth. We all need solidarity at some point in our lives or in certain areas of our lives. This is what being in a group does for you: brings you together and gives you a purpose, feeds your soul, uplifts your spirits, gives you strength, courage and hope. You see this in sports, clubs, religions, communities and other organizations.
The times feel like despair now. This does not feel like a great place to be, but in fact adversity breeds creativity. Women have experienced this for ages. They have expressed their protests in craft, needlework and knitting for hundreds of years. These pink hats are nothing, but the latest expression of protest. Not only women, but all people feel the need to create art when they have something to say and need a way to express themselves; through song, paint, drawing, sculpture, writing, poetry and other crafts.
Had these marches taken place thirty years ago, I would have been right in the middle of it. It is something I would have loved to be a part of. Now, maybe, I’m too cynical and definitely older and more tired. My friend from college, who sometimes would go to protests told me years later that she learned that it was more effective to work from the inside to make change, rather than standing outside that chain link fence holding a sign. I believe she was right.
I urge you all to make that change from the inside, starting with yourself. Stand together in solidarity, but at the end of the day stand individually by your own solitary self. You have more power than you think you do. If you see something that needs fixing in the world, then take the initiative and fix it. Even the smallest things make a difference. While we can’t always do the best thing or the right thing everyday, when we make a conscience effort to try and do the right thing, like helping someone out, being kind, picking up after a stranger in shared public spaces, spending our money with companies that try and make the world better, this makes a difference. These are things that if we all did them, would make a difference in the world.
What if everyone lived their lives as if the reason for being here was to make the world a better place? I try and teach this to my children, because this is a world that I would like to live in. What about you?