Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Call to Action: Just One Touch

The latest in Wendy’s series on taking action to make a difference in the Trump Era.

Last Saturday, two friends and I joined several hundred protesters at the Westchester Resistance Rally.  The Rally, which was a protest against walls and bans, was quite fittingly held on the green in front of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law School.  Elected officials were in attendance to voice their opposition to Trump's immigration policies and immigrants were on the dais to tell their stories, both inspiring and heartbreaking. 

I came away from the rally feeling both angry and uplifted.

First the anger. There were a handful of protesters protesting the protesters.  They carried signs that read "Pro-Life: Stop Killing Babies" and "You Lost."  Since I volunteer for Planned Parenthood, I'm very accustomed to seeing that first sign. But the second one jarred me.  I'd recently had coffee with friend, a liberal, dyed- in- the- wool Democrat who'd emailed me right before the inauguration to commiserate about what a dark time it was for our country.  But when we met for coffee and I asked her if she'd walked in the Women's March on January 21, her response was no, she hadn't, that we'd lost and we had to give this new administration a chance.  What I felt in that moment defines bleak. 

I'm going to restrain myself and not get into a rant here about winning the popular vote.  Yes, we lost in the Electoral College.  But what millions of people throughout the world are protesting is not as simple as an ideological difference about how to fix the economy or even the merits of big vs small government.  We are protesting actions that eat away at fundamental human rights, that attempt to circumvent our Constitution and our system of checks and balances.  We are protesting a president who surrounds himself with racist, sexist, climate-change denying sycophants.  We are protesting a stolen Supreme Court appointment and unmitigated hypocrisy.

Image may contain: 1 personEric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General, was one of the speakers at the rally.  He said to us, "This is not about liberal or conservative."   While I cannot directly quote the rest of what he said, the gist was that this is about what America represents at its core. 

So yes, we "lost" but with that loss, we did not cede the basic principles that define America, we did not trash our moral compass.

We need to keep our anger roiling because we stop protesting at our peril.

Angry, yes. But even as I carried home that anger, I felt just the tiniest bit uplifted.  And that feeling also will help me to keep on keeping on.  Here's what happened.

At the beginning of the rally, we all thrust our signs in the air and made a lot of noise before the first speaker went to the podium.  I was carrying a sign that Tom made for me which read "Give me your ... Sudanese ... Iraqis ... Yemenis... Libyans ... Iranians... Syrians... Somalis ... send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."  As we lowered the signs, I was approached by an older woman who I believed to be of middle-eastern descent. She asked in heavily accented English if we could pose for a picture holding the sign together.  And we did.

At that moment, I knew that no matter what happens going forward, wall or no wall, ban or no ban, in the instant it took to flash that camera, my presence at that rally had been meaningful to that one woman.

 In the end, touching other people is what it's all about.  So I will keep on.

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