2017 is turning into the year where I take my feelings and convert them into action. Ever since the election, I’ve had a lot of feelings about our new President. A man who doesn’t want the job as much as he wants applause. A man who wants to put people in place to lead agencies with little idea of what they do and why it’s important.
I’ve focused a lot of my growing discontent on what I can do with myself and where I can go from here. Since that’s the question I keep coming back to. Where do I go from here?
I work for the government as a contractor. I want it to stay open. And while I feel it’s less likely to close now that the Republicans control it, I fear their choices may lead to shutdowns in other ways. The short of it is I don’t trust Trump to look out for anyone but himself. The rest of us are collateral damage.
I know government is a huge ship. It doesn’t turn swiftly in new directions, but it can knock out small boats without even seeing them in its wake. I fear for our position in the world and what it means for our safety at home.
I have a lot on my mind and I’ve started to channel that into action. Even if that action is slow and uncoordinated, it’s a start.
First, I attended the first DC Tech Solidarity Meetup. The “secret meeting of the resistance” was attended by people from all across the spectrum. I was worried it would be mostly programmers. We had activists, advocacy groups, cyber-security and cryptography people, government affairs consultants, marketing and communications people, public policy folks and IT folks of all stripes.
We had all come together to try to find an answer to the question on all our minds. Where do we go from here?
It was a good start for something bigger. I hope it continues to grow and lead to action.
Swamp Revolt Nonviolence Training
Second, I attended Active Bystander and Nonviolence Training hosted by Swamp Revolt. The training was a solid three hours of learning the basics of what it means to be an active bystander. In addition to many role plays, we talked about the basics of nonviolence and the Bystander Effect. It was interesting and helped me learn how I can be a better ally to those facing harassment if the opportunity presents itself.
Third, I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC yesterday. It was an amazing, positive event. I will miss the spontaneous cheers throughout the day. Standing in line for the metro. There was love and pussy hats being passed around from those who had a supply. We got one from a woman in line who had extras. Each hat came with a note and contact info for who knitted it. Ours came from Jessica Greenfield
It was worn proudly all day, and later that night when my Gengar hat and my wife’s pussy hat got us some weird looks at our local grocery store.
The event was a marvel in sheer scale. I have never seen any crowd so large in Washington DC. We arrived in town a little after 9am, fueled up with donuts then made our way towards the National Mall.
I say towards because there was no reaching the mall itself. We made it to 7th Street and Jefferson.
There was no getting any closer. It was a wall of people all the way down the mall from 3rd St where the stage was setup. There was also no backing up since we were surrounded by people for at least two full blocks behind us. Though we didn’t realize it at the time.
My wife and I only saw the fuller scope of the march as we started to move. The rally was scheduled to end at 1:15 then the march was to have begun. However, at 2:30 the rally was still going and word was trickling through the flow of people walking away from the stage the march was cancelled due to the overwhelming number of people who showed up.
So we made our way out with the flow of people. We ended up taking a turn down Pennsylvania Ave with a couple thousand others. We were going to have a march whether it was official or not. As we got a couple of blocks down the road, I got a notification from the Women’s March app the march was starting. So it did finally get underway. By then we were walking past bleachers full of people shouting support and cheering. I didn’t intend to be in a parade that day, but I was and the energy was incredible.
I have never attended anything like this before. I’ve never been to a rally or demonstration anywhere and to be with hundreds of thousands of women, men and those somewhere between has no comparison.
Despite being packed like sardines standing in the street, we made paths for people suffering from health problems so they could find some relief. We parted the human sea so those trying to make it to the Don’s Johns to relieve themselves.
Even riding the Metro home was a magical experience. Despite the exhaustion of those on the train, when we arrived back at Shady Grove, one of the station managers there was smiling and clapping. Spontaneous cheers rose from the crowd as we entered the station. High fives and smiles exchanged with the tired WMATA staff.
Speaking of WMATA, the entire Metro experience was fantastic for the march. They had extra trains and despite the huge number of people, the trains were running every 5 minutes from the end of the line where we started. We made it into and out of DC without and mechanical issues. The trains were packed but just as we do on normal commuting days, we squeezed a little closer to allow more riders on.
There was a feeling of community that extended to every part of yesterday’s march.
As I awoke this morning, very sore and still tired I felt a withdrawal. There were no cheers or chants going on around me. I was left to watch the speeches and performances online that I was able to see, thanks to the large screens, but unable to hear thanks to the lack of speakers.
Where do I go from here?
I’ve spent the day taking action and talking with friends about what more we can do. The march was about translating intention into action. It was about finding the courage to do something outside a keyboard and a screen.
I am a more active citizen of democracy today. I am making strides to stay active and find groups to help channel my desire for change and to fend off the upcoming attacks on rights many who aren’t straight, white and male fear are coming.
The path is still uncertain but it gets clearer by the day. I move forward. I continue to vote. I call my representatives more. Even if it’s to tell them I agree with the way they’re voting and doing their jobs. I will continue to push them to fight for the rights of people who don’t look like me. I will weaponize my empathy and use it for good.