Long, long ago, in a country now far, far away, a man of color took the stage at the Democratic Convention in the United States of America and rallied a nation around the notion that the United States of America is about all of us.
“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,”
Barack Obama said that, and the crowd cheered. Much of the nation cheered. I think that’s why I didn’t join the Women’s March on Washington. We are a United States of America, not just Women of America. I also believe that when you march, you march toward something, and I’m not clear on what that is anymore.
I realize now that for decades many of my fellow Americans did not believe there was a United States of America for them, and I can see now that there isn’t. The middle class was lost after Reagan facilitated a free-for-all for large corporations, leaving Middle America scrambling for jobs that pay barely enough to warrant showing up. They fell hard, and neither I nor anyone I know even noticed. Factory doors shut. Jobs were lost. Workers were left with no time to raise their families, working multiple jobs at places that limited them to 30 hours a week to ensure that no health benefits needed to be provided. Oh my God, what have we done? How did I not see this?
I’m so sorry to have missed this development in my beloved country.
And so here we are. The fractured limbs of the Statue of Liberty now hide her face in shame; she calls out to the world to send their tired and poor, but many of our fellow Americans are the tired and the poor. A plaque inside the pedestal under the statue reads, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” but for many it is just a lamp at a door leading to nowhere.
How did we get here? We have to look at the fragility of our country’s foundation. We didn’t notice because stoic Middle-Americans bore it quietly for too long, and now the personification of their rage stands before us: a man with bad hair and a cold heart who heard them loud and clear and gave voice to their silence. But that man needs to serve all the people—the ones who voted for him and those of us who did not.
I go to Aaron Sorkin for my inspiration.
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
Donald Trump and his particular group of mostly white men over a certain age are saying things that I will spend my lifetime opposing at the top of my lungs, just as Sorkin suggests. But I also recognize that I have a much larger responsibility than that. And when I ask women what they are doing now that DT has won the election, they answer, “I’m marching on Washington.”
“Oh,” I say, “to what end?” And that’s the end of that conversation.
Let’s talk about the endgame. I am a girl who likes a goal, a finish line, a dance in the end zone.
In the last twenty four hours since President Trump was sworn in, all traces of causes that many of us have championed have been removed from the United States government’s website. Climate change: Gone. LGBT rights: Gone. Disabilities: Bye-bye. Need I go on? You can wipe away a webpage, but not its history.
More disturbing is the directive from the President’s office that all Interior Department Twitter accounts are to be shut down until further notice. You all saw the image that was distributed showing the crowds at Obama’s inaugural compared to President Trump’s. Well, the repercussion for that image by this administration is a total shutdown of social media for the Interior Department, who put the image out there. This means our parks will no longer show images unless they are approved by our government. And so freedom starts to disappear, one Twitter account at a time. It’s ironic, don’t you think, that the first shutdown of freedom by our President is a Twitter account. Ironic … and frightening.
This I will not, cannot tolerate. This is where we have to stop with the marching and pay attention to the details. We must call for those accounts to be open. Wide open. There can be no repression of information. We must be vigilant on this point.
Then we must stop clicking on sensational news and demand that our media give us accurate news about issues that matter, such as votes that are going to take place. The media responds to what we respond to. If you stop clicking on the trash, they will stop writing it. We must be responsible in what we read and respond to. Words matter. Our words matter. Each individual post that we share or write matters.
Start debating the issues and liking issue related posts. Leave the personal out of it. Stop tweeting Trump. Aside from driving him nuts, which will give me some solace, we can change the conversation he controls every time he creates a diversionary explosion with those tweets that take our eye off the bigger issues. The freedom to debate is foundation of our country. Are we really going to waste it on sharing someone on Saturday Night Live? The stakes are too high to waste our time, and to be clear, it’s what got us in this mess in the first place.
Run for office. Like the Tea Party did. Run for office! In case you didn’t hear me, run for office. Take back government from self-serving people who are truly corrupt, and do the right thing when you have the power. And, vote. For God’s sake vote!
Make no mistake—our freedom is at risk. Not just women’s freedom, but all freedom. And while I have absolutely no intention of giving up my right to choose, or any other women’s rights, it’s only part of a much larger concern: my freedom as an American to speak and to obtain the truth about what my government is doing. We are the United States of America, just as that man said when he became president so very long ago.
That said, march on, sisters mine. Thank you for turning out and inspiring me today. May God bless each of you, and all our countrymen and women. Every single one. And, when the buses pull away, let’s remember the real work begins.