Why Americans March

To My Grandchildren.

My dear ones,

This past weekend, one of the world’s largest protest marches took place.  On the day following the inauguration of the 45th president of these United States, massive gatherings took place in cities and towns around the globe.  In Washington, D.C., it was known as the Women’s March on Washington.  In Ventura, CA, they called it the Justice for All March.  There were gatherings in sub-zero climates from Alaska to Antarctica.  People gathered in Europe and in the Middle East.  Men and women, people of all ages, all faiths, all walks of life, all marched peacefully and stood together for equality and respect, on all seven continents.

That day, and in the days that followed, there was a lot of talk on social media about whether the march was necessary.  There was a lot of talk about whether the speakers had crossed the line with some of their comments, with some of their signage, and some of the clothing they chose to wear.  I found the followup conversations quite interesting.  Whatever these citizens might have chosen to wear or to say on that day, it seemed clear to me that each one had something they felt needed to be said, in that particular place, at that particular time. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees each of our citizens the right to speak freely.  March organizers obtained legal permits for the gatherings, and participants said what was in their hearts.  I felt sad that so many who stayed home chose to criticize the marchers.

There was one recurring criticism that really bothered me.  A lot of the marchers were criticized for seeking civil rights that they themselves seemed to enjoy.  Able-bodied women called for more equitable treatment for the disabled.  White women called for safe treatment of minorities.  Affluent women advocated for healthcare and assistance to the poor.  Citizens called for immigration rights.  People with good jobs called for equal pay.  Many marched for loved ones, and for strangers who cheered them from home, like me.  We stood together around the world, not because we were all alike, or because we had the same concerns.  We gathered in all our amazing diversity, and did something good. We stood together, and we stood for one another.

This is important:  Americans often do not protest for themselves alone. We use peaceful protest to bring attention to things we wish to improve.  We march to make our country, and our world, a better place.  In the 1960s fight for equality in America, there were many white citizens speaking for black citizens, standing with them, enduring beatings with them, serving jail time with them, and dying with them.  In the battle to eliminate the laws of apartheid in South Africa, protesters in America and around the world marched to bring attention to the issue, until at last it reached a peaceful ending, and a new beginning.  Humans are at their very best when they empathize with others, and work together to help one another.  Americans are often on the front lines in these peaceful demonstrations.

As far as I know, the marchers didn’t hurt anyone.  Some marchers, particularly in Washington, D.C., apparently left quite a mess for someone to come along afterward and clean up; that’s something we must address as we move forward.  More marches are to be expected.  We need to be above reproach in every way, so that when we march, our message will be clearly heard.

I am entering Senior Citizenship status.  As an elder, I’m working to be a positive role model, in an America whose citizens support one another. We judge so quickly these days. It’s a complicated world out there. We can learn to treat one another with compassion, and talk through our differences. We are more alike than we are different.

Sometimes I notice others taking offense at something which does not offend me.  At these times, it is important for me to ask:   Is my privilege showing?   What can I learn?  How can I share what I’ve learned?

People will continue to ask what this particular march was all about.  A lady in San Diego held a sign which said it all for me.  It said, “Achieving our full selves by fully embracing each other.”  I’m with her.

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