I returned home from Saturday’s Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women with weary feet and a joyful heart. I made the trek with my friend Karin, whom I haven’t seen since before my marrow/stem cell transplant. We met near a MARTA station and rode into the city. A colorful mix of people showing off their colorful posters filled the train, exchanging “thumbs up” and polite nods.
Our plan to meet up with friends at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the starting place for the march, was foiled by a sea of pink hats and colorful signs and thousands of people between us. And lots and lots of smiles. On women, men, and children of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, religions, and more.
The vibe was upbeat and positive. Karin and I blended in with the crowd and met people from across Georgia and other countries. One small group said they drove across state lines so folks back home wouldn’t see them on TV. Ouch! One woman asked me, “Please don’t post my picture. If my boss finds out I marched, I could be fired.” They all said they came to the march because they sought the fellowship / sistership of like-minded people.
I took a lot of photos, many shared here. You will see that everyone was capturing the event and feeling good. My favorite objects to photograph are signs and doors. The day offered great subject matter. Most of the signs were positive messages – “for” something in the common good. Some were professionally produced. Most were hand-made with poster board and markers. I was pleased to see few misspellings. 🙂 There’s always a few provocative messages that get attention, and there were many humorous signs as well.
So Many Issues, One March
Always curious, I asked people why they were braving the thunderstorms to get to the march. There were almost as many motivations as there were people: The Planet. Health care. Safe communities. Equal justice. Women’s reproductive rights. Disability rights. Gun safety. Women and children’s rights. Policing and black males. Refugees. Immigration. Religious freedom. LGBTQ civil rights. Civil society. Peace without war.
Marchers don’t agree on every issue. There were “Pro-Life” women walking with “Pro-Choice” women. A spunky grandmother said, “I am more than a one-issue voter. Yes, my faith guides me to be strongly Pro-Life. That means we must provide pre-natal care and health care for mothers and children, have good child care for working parents, and quality public education so every child has a chance to succeed. And we must take care of the environment for the future.” Her friend added, “I do not believe the government should regulate my reproductive choices more than it regulates gun ownership. But we agree on all the other issues she talked about.” They joined in on the chant, “Love, not hate, makes America Great!”
- Donald Trump’s fitness to be President. His temperament, character, and motivations are more concerning than whatever his political ideologies may be. Platitudes are not policies. One mom (who is a Republican) said, “He tweets things I teach my kids not to do: Lie, call people ugly names, threaten people, objectify women, and complain all the time about how bad things are.”
- Trump’s policy team. He says he is for all the American people, but some of his closest insiders are active in the White nationalist/supremacy movement (which they code as Alt-Right). And some deny science as it pertains to the environment, energy, education and human health. And most have no professional experience in the subject matter of the agencies they are to lead. Many donated significant sums and tell him what he wants to hear.
- Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) without a clear replacement plan. There is broad agreement that it is far from perfect. Absent a comprehensive plan, people are understandably concerned. This is personal for me. As a marrow/stem cell transplant survivor, I have exceeded maximum insurance caps and have a significant pre-existing condition that could prevent me from accessing health care in the future. And I know many people in the midst of long treatments; the uncertainty of health insurance coverage is extraordinarily stressful on their families.
- Roll back of civil rights that affect marchers’ families, their religious practices, health, and their employability. Same sex couples worry about their legal standing and the effects it could have on their children. Muslims don’t want a government registry. People of faiths other than Christian fear further marginalization and discrimination in society. Women (and men) worry that government regulation of women’s reproductive organs will increase. Victims of sex crimes fear continued systematic default positions in favor of the perpetrators.
- Cause economic and political chaos around the world with reflexive tweets and statements better shared with a therapist in confidence.
- State and local governments regression. Governors and state legislatures directly impact families with funding for education, public health, health care, innovations, public safety, essential services, infrastructure, and more. People are paying attention.
The Trump presidency is a new phenomenon that transcends partisan politics and ideology. His populist message is contradictory and confusing to anyone who listens closely to run-on sentences/tweets. Each of us can hear what we want to hear and tune out the rest. Those of us who hang our hopes on his promises that aren’t supported by his inner circle will likely be disappointed and perhaps injured or worse.
Before turning in for the night, I checked in on a couple of social media accounts to look for pics from other marches across the country and around the world. I saw my friends and family in rain gear, winter wear and summer wear – across the country and the world. All with big smiles.
Then I saw a surprising number of posts from people (women and men) who did not attend a march, but were “disgusted” with the “whiney” “anti-Trump bull.” They attributed the vandalism and violence that took place in DC as representative of the marchers (rather than opportunistic hooligans).
Okay. I understand that you don’t like public assembly unless there is a ball on a field or a band on a stage. But disgust?
Some advised us (people who marched) to “deal with it,” “get over it,” “stand with OUR president,” “just give him a chance.” A couple more prescriptive instructions were shared: “do something productive to earn your own way” or “stop depending on the government to solve your problems.”
The Women’s Marches are one way people are practicing democracy in action. We want to stop government from creating problems. Civic engagement is the American way; peaceful protests are as important as peaceful transition of power.
The naysayer remarks show me that they truly do not understand, nor care to learn about, what millions of their peers are feeling and thinking about what will happen under Trump’s leadership. Perhaps they can ignore the offensive name calling and marginalizing Trump did consistently in speeches and tweets. I cannot. Words matter. Some believe labeling us as “Libtards,” “left-wing wackos,” “Feminazis,” “stupid Killary fans,” or “Obuma lovers” provides some emotional distance from people they think they don’t like. If calling me funny names makes you feel better, you’re welcome.
The Atlanta March was promoted as “a peaceful demonstration of solidarity bringing together members of underrepresented communities, women, and their allies in Georgia and nationally.” And it lived up to its promise. After an enormous thunderstorm, sun peaked through the cloudy sky as more than 60,000 men, women, and children (and a few well-mannered dogs) created a community filled with a spirit of abundance and love. Here are some more pics from the day: