Written by Julia Shotwell
Since Trump’s inauguration, America has witnessed both feminist pro-women marches in the streets and pro-immigration protests at airports. The result is that these demonstrations have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Not everyone likes the idea of people walking around with signs and shouting into the void.
After I walked through Downtown San Diego for the Women’s March, I experienced the people I am closest to telling me that my marching was stupid and my signs were silly. They told me I was in no position to advocate for people or progress. They said I was too white and too privileged to understand the struggles of others. They told me I was at school to get an education and an occupation, not to criticize my government.
If you hate the idea of organized walking and you don’t resonate with the signs, I will try not to argue with you. But if you truly believe that staying silent is better than standing up for those in need and and calling for change, then I hope to show you why that is wrong. Solidarity is not a bad idea and it is not unproductive. Sometimes we are only capable of joining in fellowship with others who are hurting. And sometimes we have to use our actual voices when our votes have no effect.
Three million people in the United States marched in protest the day after the inauguration. President Trump then passed fourteen executive orders within the following week. If this is what democracy looks like, then what is the point of marching? If one man can override the voices of millions, then maybe people are marching just to get some exercise.
Are we supposed to stay home and stop being critical of hatred, accepting the injustice happening around us just to avoid being labeled a “sore loser”? Am I supposed to riot instead of march? No. I am not without hope. In fact, I am a little more hopeful today because I know I am not the only person who has higher expectations and standards for my country. Marching may not directly change policy, but it is a catalyst for the spread of truth and an inspiration for those on the verge of making a difference. When people march, they magnify their opinions. They let the hurting know that they are not alone, and they let the despairing know that their voice is loud. When their voice is heard, it creates an opportunity for consciousness among dissenters who otherwise would never listen to the other side of the story.
Consciousness is the first step. Consciousness of others, of privilege, and of issues are important for true democracy. These recent marches raise awareness of issues in our democracy, spotlighting the troubling fact that one man is taking advantage of and abusing the power given to him by less than half of voters. Last month, the U.S. was demoted from a its proud position as a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Today, we convince ourselves that America is a perfect democracy, but, in reality, it is flawed, and our freedom is sorely abused.
It is naive to think that a single march will produce a transformation overnight. But it is also naive to think that a world without protest will ever be motivated to change. Marching is about producing this motivation and momentum. It is about hope and solidarity, standing in fellowship with people who understand that hate must not be the mantra of our politics
Even if the country does not transform overnight, marches and protests allow people to love others outside of their homes with justice and democracy.