Women’s March (Chicago)

“Love trumps hate! Love trumps hate!”

This was one of many chants that my wife, daughters and I heard and participated in as we marched in the Women’s March in Chicago. The event was inspiring, the weather incredibly accommodating. Remarkably, the sun came out for the first time in a few weeks, and the temperature almost reached sixty degrees.  It was if Shakespeare had penned the weather, the blue skies characterized the ebullient marchers.

It did not feel as though we were protesting something. It felt as though we were affirming our American values: equal rights and protections for all, love – for neighbor, for country, for stranger – and the power of collective action for the greater good. We reminded ourselves that women’s rights are human rights, that we don’t need to be afraid of refugees, and that we can love and respect Americans from all walks of life; diversity is strength.

Hate has no home here.

I walked with my daughters, and it was the 9-year old who had the most questions. As much as I felt like trashing Trump for being all the things we know he is (this has been covered, and if at this point you don’t think it’s a big deal that he’s a narcissistic bully that advocates sexual assault, then I’m sure you’re not going to be convinced that maybe the president should have some kind of moral compass,) I used to opportunity to reaffirm our beliefs. Every human has value. People make poor choices when they are afraid. And yes, love trumps hate.

And being a part of that crowd – I believed it.

Since Election Day I have been working my way through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. I listened to Trump’s god-awful inaugural address and felt all of stage 4 (depression.) I found some solace in the fact that nobody went to the inauguration and that a Nazi got rocked in the face. (I think I’m supposed to feel guilty about that, but I just can’t when I read garbage like this. There’s no such thing as “peaceful” ethnic cleansing, but I digress.) But the depression was real. It just cannot be that this unqualified piece of human garbage is actually our president. There are so many RED flags. How can we let this proceed?

The broken ideology of the GOP created the conditions for the rise of Trump – perhaps it was inevitable. But I find comfort in the fact that this clearly isn’t what the people want. It took Russian interference, racist gerrymandering, the abolition of the Voting Rights Act, and incredibly unethical behavior (probably criminal!) from the FBI to put this disgrace into office.  There’s plenty of blame to go around and the media surely gets some of it (“Clinton seemed over-prepared at times.” “Real Americans feel overlooked.“) But despite all of that, more Americans voted for an inclusive vision of our nation.

I’ve always been wary of people who drape themselves in American exceptionalism – it’s a convenient way to ignore the very real problems that we have – problems of race and class that are structural and go back to our founding. I’ve often wondered why people were so confident that our country could not be seduced into fascism the way that European nations have in the past. Today has given me hope, however. I saw the crowd in Chicago (a quarter million the last time I checked!) and I’ve been watching the pictures come in from friends in other cities attending their own marches. There are a ton of Americans standing up for each other. I am reveling in the knowledge that it’s getting under Trump’s paper-thin skin.

After we marched, we took the girls to Maggie Daley park. While they played I heard several different languages spoken. I saw Americans of all stripes, of all backgrounds, sharing in a vision of an inclusive nation. Americans with hilarious protest signs, Americans watching their children play, Americans enjoying an unlikely sunny day in January.

I do not live in a bubble. Chicago is America. People live and work together and share the same hopes and fears. Walking through downtown, I began to think that

This presidency is not consensual.

maybe America is exceptional. Not because we can bomb other countries into oblivion. America is exceptional because of our diversity. While a good deal of white people think we need to give Mango Mussolini a chance, people from marginalized groups are not having it. They have the most to lose, and they are on the front lines, and they are brave. The rest of us need to get on board and join them. We need to send the message that our progress won’t be reversed without a fight.

America is watching. We cannot despair. If the Congress wants to abdicate their responsibility to provide checks and balances to Putin’s puppet, then regular American people must stand up. We must stand up to the powerful and stand up for each other. Let’s remind this administration that they have no legitimacy (especially since it seems to bother them so much when people say that.) Let’s remind them that no matter how many times they say they’re setting records, that this presidency is historic (or historical,) or that people love them, we are not falling for their bullshit. You like crowds? Take a look at the crowds today.

It’s fair to assume that Trump is having a bad day today. May every day of his short presidency be just as miserable.

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Josh Hammond writes things. He has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University.

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