By Michelle Railey
“On Friday, Trump offered a version of unabashed populist nationalism.” David Brooks
And on Saturday, the people expressed their own unabashed and inclusive nationalism. Sure, it was called a Women’s March. Women were there. But Indiana State Senator Jack Sandlin aside, the March was more than “fat women walking” (as Sandlin so charmingly “memed” it before claiming “that wasn’t me); it was more than “identity politics” built on “pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them.”
“In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues… reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change… All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.” (Brooks)
Maybe David Brooks was on the street, at a march in DC or New York, looking at a bunch of signs held by pussy-hat-wearers that addressed *only* reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, and climate change. Some would argue (oh, silly women with their silly so-called “issues”) that reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, and climate change are important issues, in fact, very “big things.” But from the street in Indianapolis, there was more: the Constitution figured on signs (separation of church and state; the bill of rights), the rule of law, opinions on immigration (“If you build a wall, we’ll raise our kids to tear it down”), on bigotry (if you are Muslim, if you are agnostic, if you are LGBTQI, you matter, you are human, your group identity is not the point; “Black lives matter;”); and if equal pay for equal work is not a piece of capitalism, where does it belong exactly?
Sure, “people march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.” That can happen. But what happened Saturday across the United States and across the world (globalization, what’s that?) wasn’t mass therapy. It was a chance to stand up and be a visible representation of the number of people who believe that TicTacs are insufficient for freshening the breath of those who would press their kisses (and stuff) on unwilling people, ever. It was a chance to form a visual “LISTEN TO US” at yet another time when the presidency went to a nominee who lost the popular vote, at a time when representatives leave town halls early so they can avoid difficult questions from their constituents, at a time when some of the cognoscenti say that affordable health care, human rights, the planet, a free press, and basic decency are “the wrong issues.” On Saturday, the people stood up to declare that “we are the people and we— we, the people— will tell you what the big issues are, what the right issues are: they are our issues and we know them best.
We are, at a minimum, 1 million strong. And that was just those of us who had the day off, a ride to a march, or were able to disentangle from real-life concerns for a couple hours to show up.
We the people. The women, the men, the boys (some in teal pussy-hats of their own); the transgendered; the couples, the families, the children; all races, all religions, no religions; all parties and no parties. Thin women, fat women. Walking, standing, running.
Science and truth are not up for debate. Organize. Please don’t touch me without permission. World peace. Equal pay. Women’s rights are human rights. We will be heard. Look at us.
A free press is critically important. The effects of climate change must be addressed. People are more important than pipelines; people are more important than things. Principles are more important than money. And Americans do not place fellow human beings on checklists or watchlists based on their race, creed, sex, marital status, economic class, or educational attainment status; not even for what they tweet or for what kind of hats we wear on Saturdays in January.
“We the people.” (And our kids, in strollers, on shoulders, climbing trees, holding signs.)
Our opinions matter. And if anyone thinks these marches across the country (the world, in fact) were about sour grapes or silly “pussy pride,” or “anti-Trumpism” or a failure to grasp the issues, or a chance to wear pink, well, then that anyone is not being attentive.
(As an aside, David Brooks’ column does have some good points in it and he deserves more credit than the complete excoriation he’s receiving from certain sections of the press and social media. However, seriously, these marches were not “mass therapy;” they were a prelude. And the “right issues” will be determined by the people. That’s what separates populism from jingoism.)Don’t mind me, though. Just a woman. (Where’s my hat?)