Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mrs. Harrison Goes To Washington

Recently, I went to Washington D.C. and marched with 500,000 other women who are concerned for the state of our nation. Since I have been home, there has been a LOT of discussion about whether or not the march was impactful, what it means for the women who marched, for the women who didn't, and what it was all about anyway. And just like so many things in our country (in our lives), the march was complicated and multifaceted. If you weren't there, you may not have heard about all the things we were standing up for. You may still not know what the whole thing was even about. So I want to tell you what that day meant for me, and what my take aways from that experience have been. Because I have been encouraged by it in a way that surprises even me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strong supporter of the LGBT community. And so when I first heard about The Women's March, it was my desire to support my LGBT family that drove me to say yes to the invitation. As the march was forming there was a lot of discussion about what the purpose of our gathering actually was. If you weren't receiving those emails and updates, then you could be unaware that there was a large intention to have voices from all female walks of life at this event. This was not going to be the women's movement of the 70s, but an inclusive moment to make sure all female voices were heard, with all the issues pertaining to them (most of which pertain to men as well). The march was organized by a multigenerational, multicultural and intersectional panel of women. I was encouraged most by this.

And as the day of the march drew near it was clear that all of us were attending for many different reasons. We were concerned for our black and brown sisters and their families, for the the LGBT community, for the immigrants among us, for the environment we were leaving to our children, for the lack of representation in our government, for families dealing with a system of incarceration that is inherently unfair, for the lack of understanding that diversity makes us stronger, and for those who had suffered abused and sexual assault. The list of speakers reflected these concerns.

As I was walking down Independence Avenue that morning with my longtime girlfriends and women I had never met, there was a sense pride in participating in a long standing tradition in our country. We were bringing our concerns to our elected officials in a way they could no longer ignore. We had no idea how many were there, but there were going to be enough of us to matter.

Since I have been home, I continue to be asked what it was like to be in that great throng of people. And the word that keeps coming back to me is: generous. Women were helping women. When a women near us collapsed, all it took was the chant of "medic" and there were 3 women at her side. Throughout the day women who had been separated from one another were announced from the stage and reunited in short order. I held hands with white and black and immigrant women alike. We helped one another and even if we didn't agree fully with one another, we were generous with each other. It was ok that your issue wasn't my battle cry. It was ok that you were not the same as me. Because in our differences we still had a common purpose. We were all determined to make the future better for the next generation.

Making the future better means a lot of different things to different people. I may not have the same ideas as you about what that is. I didn't love, or even agree with, every speech from every speaker; but the prevailing wind at that march was generosity to others. Give me space to be the American I need to be, to push through barriers I no longer want, to seek growth and richness in my life, to leave behind a better place than this. And I will give that to you in return. I don't need you to be pro-choice or pro-life (or any other label). I need you to allow me to be me. That's the generosity that was expressed that day, all around me.

What I experienced at the march was the best side of America. For the first time in a very long time, I felt proud to be an American. I felt proud to be with other people who were welcoming and who had clearly been advocating for their causes for a long time too. It's hard to explain what it's like to be part of a minority. But one thing is universal, fighting against a system that has not been built for you is exhausting. These people knew that and came anyway. They had been fighting too, and they too were not going to give up. And what was so incredible for me, is that we felt like a majority. It felt like we were strong, and that our fight was worth it. It's hard to convey just how meaningful that is.

I don't think I will ever forget being in D.C. that day. Not only was it a shot in the arm, a moment of unity and generosity, but it was galvanizing in a way I had not dreamed. Standing there in that sea of women and allies, I knew that I was going to do more. From now on, I needed to get more involved. I am still not exactly sure what that will mean; but I have started to call my representatives to let them know how this constituent feels about the legislation and appointees before them. And I am becoming more vocal and intentional about what I support. I plan on being more involved in the democratic process. It's more than just voting. I'm ready to put my energies into organizations that are doing the work, to be part of the work. Engagement is the key.

The day of the Women's March my feet were my faith in action. But that day was also a jumping off point. That day will be a dividing line in my life. It's the day that my trajectory shifted. With some trepidation I am walking in a new direction. My purpose is clear, even if I can't see the end just yet. But I know one thing: this is what democracy looks like.