“When the sun came shining, then I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.”
— “This Land is Your Land,” Woody Guthrie
I marched in the Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration, because it was the most patriotic thing I could think of doing in response to the election of Donald Trump.
Flag-waving and excessive displays of nationalism are not my thing. I feel, like millions of other people in the world, that this is a time for global cooperation, and creative alliances. It’s a time for a change of consciousness. It’s a time to see ourselves as brothers and sisters, as Jesus called us to do (and every other sane and thoughtful person who ever lived on this planet).
Donald Trump’s America First campaign, which, notes Susan Dunn, “echoes the name of a 1940s anti-Semitic national organization that wanted to appease Hitler,” makes me cringe.
Still, I marched — for our democratic values; to protect our hard-won rights, including reproductive rights and voting rights; and to show my solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.
In the beginning, the Women’s March on Washington was criticized for being a white woman’s march. It was heartening, therefore, to hear the speeches by Tamara Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour that morning, three women of color who were brought in by the original organizers (as Mallory explained in a Breakfast Club interview), to lead the historic March, when the numbers reached 100,000.
Before leaving to catch the train going to downtown LA that morning, I wrote Carmen Perez’s words in my notebook:
“Injury to one is injury to all. We are not helpless. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are who we need.”
It was a sunny day. It was the only sunny day, in fact, we’d had for weeks. For one day, in the middle of weeks of rain, the sun came out, as if to wink at us, to let us know that Mother Nature was on our side.
The Metro Station at Universal City, where I went to catch the train, was jammed, with hundreds of people waiting in line to get tickets. However, moments after arriving, I heard a Metro employee shouting, “It’s free now! You can all ride the train for free!”
We took the unexpected gift, and moved together through the green turnstiles, and down the stairs, where we waited on the platform for the train going to Pershing Square.
We crowded as many of us as we could into the Metro, packing ourselves in like bits of styrofoam in a giant cardboard box, until not one more would fit, and we let the doors close.
A mother with an infant in a stroller, a six-year-old daughter, and an eleven -year-old son, stood next to me.
She told me she was taking all of her children to the March because she wanted them to know that during a dark time, she stood up for herself and her rights, and for them. “This is big,” I told the girl, “you’ll be able to say, ‘I was there!'” and she grinned.
It was touching to see how supportive the boy was of his mother. When she told him they should get off at the stop before Pershing Square because of the crowds there, he insisted, “No! Let’s go to Pershing Square. That’s what you wanted to do.”
“This is an adventure!” he shouted.
He was my new hero.
I opted to get off at the 7th Street Station, and walk to Pershing Square. Although I was too late to meet up with friends, I enjoyed talking to people there, marching, and taking pictures of the signs.
There were many men at the March, and I met several fathers who brought their daughters. “They feel empowered,” one of them told me.
It was a festive atmosphere. The signs were great fun.
It was an historic moment, “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history” reported The Washington Post.
In her article for the Nation, Joan Walsh noted that more bus tickets were sold for the Women’s March on Washington than for the inauguration.
People in Belgium, Ireland, and Antarctica made their presence known.
Large numbers of the disabled community participated virtually.
On the train going home, I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces, the upbeat conversations, and how everyone’s mood, including my own, had brightened from a day of being together.
“So, you marched. What’s next?” a friend asked me the following day.
“I’m writing thank you postcards to the congressmen and women who are resisting Trump’s policies — people like Maxine Waters, and John Lewis,” I told her, and sent her the link to the Women’s March list of 100 actions.
I’m also being more conscious about supporting efforts to link movements so that we’re not divided between white and black, and gay and straight. As Tamiki Mallory said, “we need to respect each others’ justices. We can march for reproductive rights, and for racial justice.”
Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, wrote in a recent op-ed piece that, in spite of her initial cynicism, she decided to participate in the March. “Cynicism will not build a movement,” she wrote, “collaboration will.”
On the evening of the March in LA, I was inspired as I listened to the speeches from the March on Washington, including a speech by Gloria Steinem, who is as amazing at eighty-two as she was at twenty-two.
“This is a day that will change us forever,” she said, “because we are together. Each of us individually and collectively will never be the same again. When we elect a possible President, we too often go home.
We’ve elected an impossible President. We’re never going home. We’re staying together, and we’re taking over…and we’re never turning back.” .
Most definitely, we are never turning back.
I confess I had to laugh this week when Donald Trump told Fox News reporter, Bill O’Reilly, “California in many ways is out of control.”
As if that were a bad thing.
As if this were not a land that was made for you and me.