We Are Not Alone: Women’s March on Asheville, 1/21/17

The right to peaceful assembly.

The right to free speech.

In a nation built on the right to dissent from authority.

To me, that was the power in last Saturday’s Women’s Marches across the nation and the world. I didn’t get to go to Washington, because I had commitments back here in North Carolina on Sunday. I didn’t get to be part of that massive scene.

But that wasn’t the point. In the wake of the inauguration of the 45th President, those of us who dissent from the platform of the ruling party—whether on the basis of faith, morals, or a use-it-or-lose-it view of the First Amendment—needed to be together.

Why? Because of the danger of feeling alone, indulging in despair, and slumping into that mixture of apathy and anxiety that drives a people’s passive acceptance of the unacceptable.

What a joy it was to ride up to the Asheville March with two activist young women half my age, known by or related to members of the Tryon Congregation, whom I met on the March’s Facebook page. One of them said she might have chickened out and found other things she “had” to do, but for the other two of us who had agreed with her that we’d go. We talked of what we had in common that drew us to the March, what we feared deeply, what we hoped to get out of participating, and what we hoped to do as activists in the future.

We also talked of other things, things people talk about when they’ve just met: horses, Colorado, Ohio relatives, Alzheimer’s in our families.

The March itself outstripped its organizers’ expectations, just like virtually every other march that day: Facebook responses of 3,000-6,000 turned out to be close to 10,000, and the route through the center of downtown wasn’t long enough to accommodate everybody at once; marchers finishing encountered marchers at the back who had not begun the route.

And oh! The signs! “Only weak men fear women’s rights.” “I’m here because at 14 I’m taught that yelling ‘Fire!’ is more effective than yelling ‘Rape!’” “My daughter deserves to marry the woman of her dreams.” “Respect my existence, or expect my resistance!” “Real men are feminists.” And many others.

And my favorite, “I’d really prefer an ACTUAL swamp.”

On Monday morning, and all this week, actually, it’s been “To work!” Calling legislators. Writing postcards. Sending encouragement to the mosque down in Spartanburg in response to the executive orders.

My frequent theme in this blog during my time in NC is to lift up efforts, individuals, programs, and movements that defy the nation’s impressions of NC as conservative, mean, and Christian, among other things. So this effort that cuts across political and religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity definitely qualifies.

Marches help people see each other. See they’re not alone. Helps them network. Organize. And be empowered.

Marches charge people up, so they can buckle down to the hard work of a new role as citizen-agents of our democracy.

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