Marching Right Past Each Other’s Humanity

I lost “friends” and sowed some discontent on Facebook when I participated in the Tallahassee Women’s March in January 2017.

Marching past humanity

Tallahassee Women’s March 2017

That’s fine. We lose connections with people, especially on social media, as our differences become too great to overlook.

However, it has bothered me ever since January 2017. My pro-life friends said, “I wouldn’t have felt comfortable there — it wasn’t for all women.” And although I argued that they would have been comfortable, while my friends who had been marching in DC also asserted the activity was for all women, I knew in my heart of hearts that they would not have been at ease.

Two Years Later — a Trip to DC’s March

When a few factors came together to make a trip to New York City possible this year, with the date being up to me, I intentionally chose something that would make it possible to get to DC. My friends, all strong advocates in their own right, and I planned to meet up in DC.

I have zero apologies for participating in the March, or for the positions about which I am most vocal. Yet, it is a challenge when those positions and my choices abut people who are dear to me.

As the time of the Women’s March drew near, friends on Facebook asked for prayers as their teenagers were headed to the March for Life, to be held the day prior to the Women’s March. Of course I wanted those teenagers to be safe, and I admired their adherence to their beliefs, but I felt conflicted.

A Woman’s Place is in the … WHAT?

As my friend Yolanda and I wound our way through the streets of DC, admiring people’s signs and reveling in the shared sense of purpose that our country has to find its way back to some semblance of equity and fairness, our attention was drawn to a group of counterprotesters on the sidewalk. They were there to express their pro-life views. A group of Women’s Marchers had stationed themselves in front of them to try to block their message.

Honestly, I barely looked at them. I was processing things. But I remember Yolanda reading one of their signs: “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.” Their other messages were along the same lines and they were screaming at us about killing babies.

Where in the world is the middle ground?

As the day went on, chatter about the interactions between the students from Covington High School, the Native American Elder and the Black Israelites started to fill Twitter and other news channels. (Here is the BBC’s coverage because it’s virtually impossible to choose objective press about the event here in the US.)

Something in my gut told me to hold off favoriting/sharing on social media. My friend and I were running around, and it was extremely difficult to get a handle on what was happening. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an Indigenous People’s March, much less on the same day as the March for Life.

What I am about to say may be the single most naive thing I’ve ever written in 10+ years of blogging, but here goes:

Choosing to share your side of a situation in a public demonstration is not the time to have any hope of finding middle ground; that happens person-to-person, face-to-face, in our everyday lives. Our living rooms, the vantage point of a parent in a driver’s seat speaking to a kid in the passenger seat being driven to dance, soccer or lacrosse, and hopefully the classroom or place of worship. But not a protest situation.

Here’s how much a parent can control what their teenager does:

(Slight hyperbole alert here):

ZERO.

One of the first things you learn as a parent is that your child is their own person. I always cringe a bit at the “this all starts at home” line of reasoning when a young person does something unaccepting or otherwise meanspirited.

What I do know, however, is that a school that allowed a situation to escalate in the way the Covington situation escalated is probably not one where my children would have remained enrolled very long.

I know, too, that is entirely imperfect as my children’s parents are, they have seen two parents who each tried to model fairness, appreciation of diversity and inclusion.

Social media is misleading

Did you see the picture of Prince William “shooting a bird“? It turns out the truth is in the camera angle.

There are things about the Covington situation that speak their truth beyond the camera angles:

  • the body space invasion of Sandmann and Phillips in each other’s personal boundaries
  • the MAGA hats
  • the chanting

Some authors, such as Andrew Sullivan in the Intelligencer, claim the Covington students were sort of captive (waiting for a bus, at the mercy of the Black Hebrew Israelites). After watching 100 minutes of footage before, during and after the most widely promoted moments Sullivan said, “This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become.”

I appreciate Sullivan’s perspective, yet I tend to align most closely with Average White Guy via Black Girl in Maine, who said, “Wearing a MAGA hat and approaching any person of color, but most particularly Black or Indigenous people of color, is an act of aggression by its very nature.”

Protesting is hard

I feel ridiculous typing “protesting is hard,” because I really don’t know “hard.” As a white, middle-class woman who has definitely gotten everything I need in life and more than my share of what I wanted, I am aware that “hard” is something I do not know.

This is the section where I tell you I don’t know the answer (ha!). It’s the section where I admit that my entire upbringing under a lovely Southern mom was geared toward being polite, not making waves.

When I was at We Won’t Wait 2016, and trans women talked about how they disrupted a panel at a conference, making it impossible for the presenters to continue and essentially holding the entire gathering hostage until someone would let them share their message, my inclination was to say, “but do you know how hard those people worked to make their presentation? The conference fees they paid? The years of research?”

I don’t know the answer, but I also know Rosa Parks didn’t exactly wait until a passenger gave her a seat. At that same conference (We Won’t Wait), a speaker said, “Rosa Parks wasn’t tired of racism … Rosa Parks was TIRED.” (I know she was probably both, but the point was well taken.) The big changes in our society don’t happen quietly or politely. They get people’s attention and make us uncomfortable.

Were the Covington students doing something hard to further a greater social good or doing something self-centered to which they were relatively accustomed to further their own discriminatory agendas?

There’s no talking sense into a fundamentalist

Once I learned more about the Black Hebrew Israelites, I had a better understanding of the elements at play that day. And ultimately, there’s no reasoning with a group that far on the fringes.

Megan Roper, who grew up as a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for rigidity and especially for protesting funerals and expressing hatred toward gay people, left that all behind. She now says, ” They [people she met on Twitter who were from outside her church] approached me as a human being and that was more transformative than two full decades of outrage, disdain and violence.”

Marching past humanity

 

Finding the human beings beneath it all

In January 2017, my pro-life friends protested that they would not have felt welcome at Tallahassee’s Women’s March and in January 2019, people I loved marched to espouse the right to life the day before I marched for women’s rights (and other rights) while being yelled at to “get back in the kitchen.” Somewhere in the middle of all that, a group of high school boys from Kentucky came face to face with a Native American Elder while another group of extremists egged everyone on (it appears).

What I can’t reconcile is why no one in that entire mix approached anyone else as a human being. It seems like it would have been more transformative.

Marching past humanity

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Inauguration Day and Beyond: #One20

It’s no secret at all that my candidate did not win the US Presidency. The election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency makes me sad, angry, and terrified for the impact his policy choices will have on my fellow Americans, on me, and on the world at large.

But he did win, he is being inaugurated on January 20, and I have a choice to make regarding how I respond.

I am inspired by One20: A Day for Doing Good, a call to do good in our communities on January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day).

Although One20 is focusing on January 20 to begin with, I anticipate that start will create ripple effects long into the future. One20 has inspired the structure of this post: 20 things I, as ONE single person, can do and say in response to the establishment of the Trump Administration.

1. I am not using the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

The day after the election, my daughter and I were discussing the election’s outcome and the reactions of people around us. “Is it that bad?” was her question. While I do believe it is, indeed, that bad, I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag because, like it or not, he is what I am getting. However, in the same way that I went to the Grads Made Good breakfast at Florida State year after year and refused to clap for Dr. Stephen Winters (RIP) who groped me in Dodd Hall when I was a freshman, the professor a higher-up administrator basically looked the other way about when I shared the information, I will not be applauding our new President.

2. An Addition to My White House Selfies

Every time I go to DC, I take the obligatory “here I am in front of the White House picture,” like this one from last September.

Political Activism

When I go to the Shot at Life Champions Summit next month, though, the picture may still have a green pen in it (I mean, that’s the norm now, right?) BUT I will also feature a safety pin prominently in the picture. I have seen so many individuals and groups deeply hurt by the reinvigorated spirit of hatred and divisiveness in our country, it is imperative to me that people know I, like @IBexWeBex, am a safe place.

3. I will participate in the Tallahassee Women’s March on January 21.

Organized by the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance, the event is “a 100% inclusive event and all genders, races, ages, religions, sexual orientations – everyone! – is invited to participate.”

4. Involvement in local, state, and federal politics.

I will redouble my efforts to be personally familiar with the choices my local, state, and federal leaders are making, and to make my positions clear with them.

5. My Profile Picture on January 20

I am not changing my profile picture to one of President Obama on January 20, as many people I know are planning. This relates to the fact that I am not using the #notmypresident hashtag. I am beyond grateful to President Obama and his family. He has been a singularly outstanding President, and I am so excited about how he can apply his intellect and passions once he no longer has the constraints of the Presidency.

I really can’t explain why this choice doesn’t sit right for me. When Beyonce did an impromptu (and very well performed) rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to prove that she could, indeed, sing the song without a lip syncing, I hated the song being used as some sort of “revenge” song. Somehow using President Obama’s image feels the same way to me. (But I support everyone making that choice.)

6. Helping Homeless Women With Personal Hygiene Needs

In keeping with the idea that we can collectively make big impacts when many people do small things, I am adding feminine products to the non perishables I purchase for local food drives. For more on this topic, visit Bustle.

7. Making an Impact in Person, not just Online

I read a great post on Facebook about how we should attend to seeing how we can positively impact the people within five feet of us. I can’t find the initial post, but the concept is true. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our virtual communities that we forget what we can do for the people right next to us. Let’s do it.

8. Read, Dialogue, Read and Dialogue Some More

I am continuing to read books like Debby Irvings’s Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race and Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out in order to be better informed then finding a way to act on what I’ve learned and be a part of respectful dialogue in order to bring people closer to one another.

9. I am refusing to stay silent in the face of racist, anti-semitic, or other hate jokes.

When a national rental car company picked me up to take me to pick up a car right after the election, the driver, commenting on how safe my neighborhood appeared, went on to remark, “be glad you’re not in California where those Muslims are lying down in the streets.” When I responded that they had something to say, he went on to explain how we can never get along with “them,” and  how I would “figure that out someday.”

I doubt my attempt to defend Muslims registered with him AT ALL, but maybe, just maybe, he will think in the future before spouting his hatred. It mattered to try.

10. I am not moving to Costa Rica, Canada, or anywhere off of US soil.*

I am not going to let this President and his administration run me off. I love my country, think it is great already, and plan to stay put.

11. Voting Matters Now More Than Ever*

I will support efforts to get out the vote, to encourage people to register to vote, and to make it easy for my fellow citizens to vote.

12. Supporting Equity and Safety for Black Students

I am grateful to have met Kelly Wickham-Hurst, creator of Being Black at School. I have made a donation and will continue to support her work advocating for equity and safety for Black students.*

13. Kindness > Sarcasm

Inspired by Caitie Whelan’s Lightning Notes about The Kindness Impulse, I will strengthen my kindness impulse so it is stronger than my sarcasm impulse. For the record, it would probably be easier to move to Canada!

14. You’re Never Too Young to Learn to Make a Difference

I will believe in the capacity of the youngest among us to embrace diversity, to make a difference, and to positively influence their peers. A great place to start is by sharing one of the books featured in this #MomsReading blog from Moms Rising.

15. None of Us Can Afford to Be Single Issue Voters

I will continue to educate myself about issues that affect my fellow women and Americans, even if they don’t directly affect me. It started with We Won’t Wait 2016 and will only grow in the face of closed-mindedness and hatred from our newly elected leaders.

16. I will support the LGBTQIA+ Community

I joined Equality Florida in order to stay informed about issues important to Florida’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (as well as Floridians at large) including Discrimination, Adoption, Family Recognition, Safe and Healthy Schools, Hate Crimes, Voter Mobilization, Marriage, Transaction, and Gun Violence Prevention.

17. I Will Advocate Tirelessly for Banned Books

I will continue to advocate passionately against censorship and other types of limitations to the freedom to read. Learn more about Banned Books Week.

18. Climate Change Is Bigger To Me Now

Although it has not been one of my “top” issues, I will redouble my efforts to track climate change issues and make a personal impact (ten good ideas in this article).

19. The World Beyond Our National Borders Deserves My Support

I will continue to be involved in international issues and in the lives of individuals in other countries for whom my access to freedom, resources, and security can be a help, such as the three children we sponsor in Guatemala and El Salvador through Unbound.

20. I Will Respect The Lessons of History

At the wise recommendation of Steve Schale, I read Rep. John Lewis’s letter of forgiveness to Governor George Wallace today. In one passage, he said, “Much of the bloodshed in Alabama occurred on Governor Wallace’s watch. Although he never pulled a trigger or threw a bomb, he created the climate of fear and intimidation in which those acts were deemed acceptable.” In the letter, Rep. Lewis forgave Governor Wallace, who in his view “grew to see that we as human beings are joined by a common bond.”

President Elect Trump will probably never pull a trigger or throw a bomb himself, but until he is proven otherwise, I stand ready to be one of the many Americans doing my part to mitigate the climate of fear and intimidation I see infiltrating the 2017 version of America which should know so much better by now.

As my friend Mary Schaefer quoted in a recent blog post:

We tell people who we are with every breath we breathe. (Source Unknown)

Mary’s unknown source is so right.

I can’t change who is going to be sworn in on January 20, but I can be a part of keeping America great …. for all Americans … until I run out of breath.

*Items with asterisks were inspired by “my commitments to protecting our democracy,” a reflection on President Obama’s farewell address by Leah Jones. Thank you, Leah, for helping me fill out my list of 20 actions/observations in such a substantive way.

More Ideas For How To Continue Advocacy Beyond 1/20/17

Political Activism

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.