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.