Monday, January 23, 2017

Turning the Corner on 25th Street

A hand gesture conveys so much. On Saturday, I reluctantly joined hundreds of others who gathered at the Union Station in Ogden. Reluctant because it was cold, snowy, and I’m an introvert. I much prefer to spend a stormy Saturday home with a cup of hot cocoa and reading a book by the fire. Besides sometimes gatherings of people no matter how well-intentioned can get out-of-hand. Unlike Pride in SLC which I’ve participated in several times, we didn’t have police escorts or security of any kind. But this is Utah, and we’re a tame bunch…right?

The group of marchers started the half mile walk and I got in line. Our first hurdle came within minutes or even less. The intersection WALK sign only allowed a handful to cross the street, so a man who I believe was a veteran stepped out into traffic and began to direct, rather professionally to get more of us across the road. A truck who could have mowed down dozens of people and didn’t seem to care if he did, began to rev his engine and pushed his way through the crowd, forcing marchers to jump away. Their were children with us and some older folks too. A couple others followed the driver’s example and did the same—honking all the while. It’s interesting that we could usually tell the cheerful honks, the we’re here with you sisters, to the get the hell out of my way honkers. Inevitably the supportive honkers would open windows and cheer. The cheering buoyed me an I'm sure others. The hand waves, made me smile. Some of the business owners on Ogden’s Historic 25th street came to their windows as we passed and waved—most seemed sympathetic to the cause—and if they weren’t--we didn’t know because they were respectful. 

What a difference between the cheerleader passersby, the peaceful happy marchers and those with trucks rev-ing, horns blaring, middle fingers saluting, and obscenities flying. I’m really a very timid person. I hate confrontation and go way out of my way to avoid it. Some of you, won’t believe that because sometimes I find myself right in the middle of it. I’ve been accused or complimented depending on the person’s point of view many times over the years of being “brutally honest” or of “speaking my convictions.” My answer to that is that you have no idea how many things I keep to myself, of how many times I scroll past a Facebook post, or overhear something that makes me cringe, or just like on Saturday, how often I feel that punch to the gut that comes when someone looks right at me/us and flips us off and tells us to go to hell. On Saturday when it happened, I felt a visceral reaction, that I squelched. Then smiled. I actually felt sorry for the guys who have so little respect for a group of peaceful, mostly women, marchers carrying anti-misogyny, pro-equality, anti-Trump signs that they feel that they need to lash out. I understand that because I often have to look the other way when I feel my values are confronted. I guess they didn’t have enough self-control to look the other way. And yes, Mr. Middle Finger, I am you. I’ve childishly flipped someone, more than one someone off when I haven’t been in control of myself. And guess what, it did not make me feel better. It made me feel stupid. So I’m not too angry with you. I’m just glad your finger wasn’t on a trigger—because sometimes hate out of control, in the moment leads to disaster. I’m so grateful that all over the women’s marches were peaceful (not to be confused with the rioters who had nothing to do with us.)

So why did I march? Because my daughter was marching in DC and though I’ve always been so proud of her, I was especially proud on Saturday. I wanted to be there myself with her, but let my fear cower me into staying home. Because we raised our children to care very much about equality, even though they’ve lived a rather privileged life. Because we taught our children to stand up for right and truth. We taught them to care about the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised. Because I didn’t want to look back on one of the most historic marches in my life-time and say that I chose to stay home and read a book about feminism instead of participating in feminism. Because stepping out of our comfort zone to confront principles we believe in head-on isn’t easy. 

But the main reason I chose to march was because a friend asked me if I would do it with her. See we all need friends who say, I’ll do it if you will. Without that friend, I would have stayed home and read that book and I wouldn’t be writing this, instead I would be envying those millions of people world-wide who said, we are in this together. We will not let fear reign.

 For me, the grief I have felt ever since this election season began makes me want to hole up, stay home, read, watch TV, hibernate and eat Cheetos. But I know me. And what helps me get out of my own pessimistic thinking is to engage in the process, meet like-minded individuals and just do something. Marching alongside the energetic people practicing their right to come together and protest a president that has maligned every single marginalized group and then some has offered me a bit of peace, and whole lot of hope. Love to all of you millions of marchers around the world. “Love can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.” 

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