(Photo credit:James Zwerg interview on Quora A beating of a civil rights protester, James Zwerg, at the Montgomery bus station in the 1960s.)
As I prepare for the Women’s March in Washington, I’m voraciously reading and watching any news article that comes my way from every imaginable source. I can’t get enough; it’s an addiction and I want to drop all pretense of doing anything else just to immerse myself in it. I’m proud to be part of this movement, excited by the possibilities contained within it, hopeful that it will lead to a more inclusive America and world. This is a movement unlike any I have ever experienced, and it has the possibility to change the world. I am overjoyed that I get to go to the center of that movement, to walk in Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s footsteps, to share his dream. I’m proud, excited, and feel deep gratitude that I get to be a part of this. There is nowhere else I’d rather be on the 21st.
But I’m scared.
I’m scared because I’m not stupid, and I know that there are risks to public demonstrations. It’s really easy to think about MLK up there giving inspirational speeches and feeling the stirrings of deep justice, but harder to imagine what it felt like to be put in jail, to know that every time he spoke his life was in danger. What were his final thoughts when that nightmare came to life and he was murdered?
This country is divided in ways I’ve never personally witnessed before (perhaps owing to the beautiful blue bubble I’ve been living in, or perhaps due to my white skin, or perhaps due to sheer blindness – the last of which is quite possible and embarrasses me deeply), and I know which side I am on. Our President Elect – who becomes President tomorrow – uses ugly language like “loser” and “enemies” and “pathetic” and “fat pig” to describe those who disagree with him, and the nation looks to him to see what behavior is acceptable. His is not the language of peace, or reconciliation, or unity, or love. His is the language of anger, division, and derision. When our children speak the way he does, in anger or frustration, we coach them to change. We look to religion or psychology or our own internal compasses, and we coach them to share, to be kind, to apologize. But the times they are a’changin’, and if Trump is the new model, it’s about might makes right: talking over one another, shouting, threatening, insulting. It’s all about getting power, and then using it indiscriminately, with self-interest.
What will happen in DC, then, when those there to celebrate the inauguration combine with those there to protest it? Will it be the Montgomery bus station all over again? Who has the power now?
This is how I know I’m brave. I see what might happen, but I’m willing to go anyway.
This is how I’m standing up for my beliefs.
Might does not make right. I do not have much might, but I am sure that I am on the right side of history.