A thousand people in the street

A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

This lyric (from For What It’s Worth by Stephen Stills of the Buffalo Springfield) is over fifty years old. But it could have been written yesterday… literally, yesterday. Gettysburg, like much of the United States, had a Women’s March yesterday. This was an event I felt compelled to attend.

Compelled is a carefully chosen word. It means “forced to oblige.” I didn’t want to go, but I had to go. I live in a conservative area, central Pennsylvania. My neighbors are the very people that Barack Obama once derided as “clinging to their guns and religion.” Two thirds of the voters in my county voted for Donald Trump. If we’re going to have a Women’s March. I need to share my presence, lend my voice.

So I thought.

Like all the other Americans who are exactly like me, I was astounded when Donald Trump won the election. I was appalled that his racist, xenophobic stance was embraced by so much of my country. Or if not embraced, at least not rejected. Like many, I believe that in wanting to make America “great again,” Trump is really saying “white and Christian.” I was raised white and Christian. But I’m no longer Christian, and I’m also mentally ill. These traits leave me feeling like an outsider. When Trump and his crowd pick and choose the good Americans, I’m off the list.

After the election, a common refrain on Facebook was “get over it, he won.” Another was “he’s only the president, he can’t do anything without the approval of congress.” We all now know that last statement is complete nonsense. Trump has left an indelible mark on the nation. Not only with his policies and his executive orders, but with his immature demeanor and his hateful language. He has validated racism and misogyny. He has given a voice to vast portion of the country that won’t embrace the change that many of us believed had already happened. 

Over the past year, I’ve heard people talk about a depression that’s crept over the United States. Many feel helpless in our new society. The Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration was a bold warning shot across his bow. It was a statement. We’re not going to give up. But then we did. I feel that no one knows what to do next except to stare, aghast, open-mouthed, dumbfounded.

I, personally, can’t get over it. I’m watching something unravel that took hundreds of years to create.

So I went to the Women’s March in Gettysburg yesterday. There was a small crowd. Maybe a hundred and fifty people in all. About a quarter of the group that gathered in our central square to ring in the new year on a frigid night less than a month ago. There were signs urging unity, speakers fostering camaraderie. People cheered and chatted, and I suppose they sang songs and marched. But I don’t know because I didn’t stay. I felt out of place and powerless, so I left.

I read an article in the Washington Post this morning. It was an interview with six women who participated in last year’s March on Washington. A couple are still politically engaged, but the rest are just like me. They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.

Over the past year a malaise has settled over me. So you don’t need to look it up, malaise means  “discomfort, illness, or uneasiness.” I use this term to describe how I’m feeling so frequently that I joke with Susan that I’m becoming Malaisian. But it’s not a funny. It’s sad and scary. Like much of the country, I’ve given up. 

Another song lyric: This time by Patti Smith: “Can’t you show me nothing but surrender?” In taking the time to write out my feelings today, I think it’s time that I rediscover my fight

18 thoughts on “A thousand people in the street

  1. At least you had the wherewithall to show up in the first place. I consider myself a feminist and think it’s so important to make a stand against everything Trump stands for, but I honestly didn’t even know the Women’s Marches were going to be yesterday. There was one in my city and I saw nothing about it until after the fact. I wish I had known because I would’ve gone. I probably would’ve felt out of place too, but you at least added your body to the visual of people coming together. That counts for something.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of the things I didn’t like about the Gettysburg march is that the theme was act locally. They specifically drew no distinction between being for Trump’s policies or against… although it looked like people were generally against.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard about the marches too, but was unable to attend. And then that raises the question – would I have gone if I were free? I dunno. I would imagine being around that many people of the same mind would have been inspiring. I was listening to Angry Young Man, by Billy Joel recently and the lyrics that made me stop and think about my current – well it certainly isn’t apathy because I am annoyed as hell – but lack of motivation to do anything about my political feelings (because it seems pointless) were:
    I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage
    I found that just surviving was a noble fight
    I once believed in causes too
    I had my pointless point of view
    And life went on no matter who was wrong or right..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was at least year’s protest and only reason I couldn’t go this year was work. I would have to drive a distance to be apart of anything as locally nothing happens here. 90% Republican.
    Find your fight. Not because I said so but because complicity is approval. I get it– you cannot fight any more– but you can. Locally does matter because what happens in small towns eventually turns national.
    Even if you just start going to city council meetings or become active in a local debate do something that changes how you live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The commentary on this blog post has been really inspiring. My wife and I just had a conversation where we talked about another upcoming local protest – this one specifically for immigration issues — that we want to participate in. I’m not done yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If you do nothing else: at least try and overcome personal apathy. And I don’t at that in an accusatory way because it happens to all of us. When something doesn’t touch you personally, it’s easy to tuck it away at the back of your mind. So even if you’re not sure where to direct your efforts or what to contribute or how to make the most of your feelings, at least keep them present.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I write about feeling apathetic, it seems I’m not. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing about it. I’m seeing this post as a regrouping effort for myself. I’ve gotten many encouraging comments, and I’m ready to reengage. Thanks for reading and lending your voice.

      Like

  5. “I, personally, can’t get over it. I’m watching something unravel that took hundreds of years to create.”

    This is the uncomfortable truth that I feel many Americans are missing. From the outside it looks as if many of the things that made America great (can-do spirit, optimism, freedom, fight, determination, grit, independence) are being eroded day by day and the attitude seems to be “Ah, it’s grand, we’ll get it all back once he’s gone.” Except it doesn’t work like that. The bar, once lowered, can’t be raised back to where it was. It honestly worries me. It’s going to take a long time to recover what’s been lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it would help all americans to have some sort of connection with people in other countries. I get so much perspective from you and other “foreign” commentators. I agree with you that people feel that this is a hiccup and everything will be fine once it goes away. I don’t see it that way either.

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  6. None of us knows what to do. I think the answer is to do the best we can. Let people in front of us out in traffic. Be kind. Be the opposite of polarizing. But importantly also don’t be afraid so say something rather than stay silent when it makes sense to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is very much a ‘what would jesus do’ approach. Moral, ethical, inclusive. If only we could spread it around. Trump’s “America First” is just an extension of a ‘me first’ attitude that seems to be on the rise.

    Like

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