I still cannot believe I actually got out of the house at 4:15 a.m. on Saturday.
Like many people, I was devastated by the presidential election. To add a personal insult, my birthday is Jan. 20. I’m old enough to have seen some good presidents and some not-so-good ones come into office on my day, but this year went far beyond. Friday, I got condolence calls instead of birthday wishes.
When a friend asked about flying to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March on Washington, it seemed like a way to refocus all this emotion, or at least distract myself. I should say here that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to afford a plane ticket and to have a wonderful husband, sister-in-law and family friends who could do the Saturday juggling and carpooling for our three children. And lucky to have four inspiring and hysterically funny friends who could all go together. If ever we needed a test of our friendships—it was a 20-hour day including being tired, hungry, thirsty and on our feet (and in need of a porta-potty for more hours than you can imagine), but we were still so thrilled to be together and at this historic moment.
Starting in Arlington, outside of Boston, we made it to D.C. thanks to a replacement plane at Logan and a friendly minivan cab driver at Dulles. (And yes, it is funny that suburban moms got to a protest in a minivan.) We stopped for a photo with our pink hats, above, found our way over to the rally and got a spot near a giant screen showing the incredible speakers.
We experienced four hours of people who I have always wanted to hear speak, one after the other, including my personal hero, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. So many amazing women! Then I noticed that there had not been any Jewish speakers yet. The thought occurred to me because one speaker, while listing many religions in her speech, had strangely not said Jews. And yes, to our right was a sign that read “Chai” in Hebrew, but otherwise I was the only Jew I could identify.
I was raised going to Hebrew day schools in the ‘70s, when the Holocaust was just a few decades in the past and the Jews marching in the Civil Rights movement were even more recent. The poster that seemed to hang everywhere was, “First they came for the Socialists….” Seeing it quoted again all these years later, I pray my faith, my family and my friends would never stand by. As the signs now read, “First they came for the Muslims, and we said not this time!”
We have a president in the White House who does not stand for any of my values. And it’s almost impossible to not be so very angry, to not write off his voters, to not simply try to hide from all this. But we know that we have to help heal the world, we have to help others, we have to stay engaged and on guard. How do we keep the balance between anger and motivation, depression and energy, disgust and hard work? We were surrounded by strong, motivated people and incredible signs on Saturday. The one I cannot stop thinking about said simply, “I strongly dislike hate.” That is exactly it—for me. Exactly. We must be mad enough to keep going without somehow falling into the emotional quicksand of hatred. You cannot hate hate—you have to not hate.
I want so much for us all to work together, even if and when we disagree. Even if we have different priorities, lifestyles, attitudes, abilities and strong opinions. Keep disliking the hatred but without feeding it.
The amazing numbers of people, the witty and moving signs, the endless ocean of pink hats as far as the eye could see is the motivation I take from that beautiful day, that phenomenal experience.
When we met with our rabbi the next morning to discuss our son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, I mentioned that I had not seen one Jewish leader in four hours of speeches, which was surprising given our history and practice of social action. He later sent me photos and clips so I would know there were some there.
I must find my place to feel included in this new movement. I must be ready to go forward with all those powerful women, all across the country, to do the work we need to do, together.
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