I Am A Woman, A Refugee, An American, & Afraid

I marched because I am a woman and a refugee and an American. I marched in support of amazing women I know, strong women that came before me and for our daughters and sons that will inherit the world we are eventually going to leave behind. I also marched because not marching did not seem like an option to me.

But, to be honest, I mostly marched out of fear.

When I was a teenager, the country that I knew and swore my loyalty to, Yugoslavia, fell apart. It was not a slow and painful death, but a quick infection, that cost all the republics, and mostly Bosnia, hundreds of thousands of lives. It started with an idea, that became a rhetoric, that finally turned into action which took its final form as genocide, mostly done to Muslim population. The idea was to make “Serbia Great Again” and many men, women, children and elderly paid the price.

I remember those early days before snipers and heavy artillery surrounded Bosnian cities and villages started to burn. Men with floppy hair on TV yelling into microphones, chanting masses with waving flags, the demagogs and the ideologists and the protests and everyone declaring themselves, publicly or privately, as supporters or as opposition, as this or that nationality. All of these elements were a marking of a serious crisis to me.

The lump in my throat kept growing as we moved through American primaries in 2016, got close to election, elected a president and finally, when the current administration took office in January of this year, the lump in my throat was me suffocating. The rhetoric of the campaign, particularly the parts where certain groups of people were isolated and presented as “bad” (disabled, immigrants from Latin America, women, Muslims – we have all seen the clips and read the quotes), were quite terrifying to me. Was this a deja vu? I understood there is much more detail than this, laws and legislations, senators and representatives, and our own complicated and unique American history. But I could not deny the parallels.

So I marched.

I marched so that my family but, more importantly, my neighbors, don’t have to go through what Bosnian population went through in the nineties.

I marched so it is clear to people around me who I am and what I stand for.

I marched for all the women of the world and struggles that unite us.

I marched to stand with my sisters and brothers against words and actions that will undo the work of ones that came before us. This goes for education, for environment, and for rights of women, minorities and LGBTQ community, and numerous other issues that I feel like are at peril.

Mostly, I marched so I would be less afraid.

Why Wouldn’t I March? Why Didn’t You?

I grew up in a small town in central Nebraska, went out of state to college, work, and grad school, and returned to rejoin my family. Seven years ago, I started my own family here. I’m now an educator, a mom, a researcher, a wife, a small business owner, a student. I’m comfortable speaking up and speaking out. But I wasn’t sure I would march. I’m 38 years old, and I, like most of the others in this collection, had never engaged like that before. I am a lot of different things, but was I an activist, a protester?

 Eventually, I realized… why wouldn’t I march?

Why wouldn’t I march– if I believe that whether you’re LGBTQ, Muslim, refugee, black, immigrant, differently-abled, or female, you don’t deserve to be afraid. You don’t deserve to be treated, in the eyes of the law, the characters of Twitter, or the dismissive or derisive comments of lawmakers, as anything less than equal, whole, supported, worthy, respected, valued Humans.

Why wouldn’t I march– if I love this country, in a way I’m frankly only now discovering, as I watch the fundamental principles for which it stands being threatened and twisted through the words, actions, behavior or inaction of many who are supposed to represent us. Through a “travel ban”; through threats to the free press, the judiciary, the environment, funding for climate change and gun control research, affordable health care, public education and more; through support of waterboarding; through party-line votes and support for an unfit Secretary of Education, an unfit head of the EPA, an unfit Attorney General, to name a few.

Why wouldn’t I march– if I reject the painful, intolerant, objectifying words and regressive, intolerant, fundamentally un-American actions of President Trump, and anyone who condones or defends them.

Why wouldn’t I march– if I believe that physical and sexual assault isn’t funny, and comments about women being not being attractive enough to be assaulted make my stomach turn, make me feel inhuman and demoralized and outraged and unsafe and confused and scared for my 7-year-old daughter. If many lawmakers don’t seem to be outraged with me. If I honor the many strong survivors I worked with at domestic violence shelters, and their beautiful scarred strong children.

Why wouldn’t I march– if I believe that a woman’s health includes her mental, emotional, economic, and physical well-being. That she deserves the right and the respect to make her own intelligent choices about it, rather than be denied options by largely white male lawmakers who have no idea what it’s like to be her. That those who do become mothers, their co-parents, and their new babies, deserve paid parental leave from the richest country in the world.

We can do better. We must do better. We are better.

As my pastor used to preach, we’re called to “remove the chains of injustice, let those who are oppressed go free, share bread with those who are hungry, and shelter homeless poor people” (Isaiah 58:6-12).  Nebraskans will continue answer that call. We will monitor and advocate and vote and fight and use our “shrill” voices to push the city, the state, the country to deliver liberty and justice for all.

Will you?

I marched because, if we are our sister’s and brother’s keepers, I didn’t know where else I could be.

Why wouldn’t I march?

Why didn’t you?

For all the strong, wise women with an undefeatable spirit that came before me

I didn’t march because of a family obligation but I have often thought about why I would have. Many years ago I sat in a car, traveling across Nebraska with my aunt. Conversation had revolved around varied subjects but now settled on politics. She asked me what I thought about some current issue. I shrugged. I had grown up in a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My mother was Democrat, my father was Republican. I can, maybe, remember one isolated instance of hearing them discuss politics. When I turned 18, I registered as a Democrat. I voted in every Presidential election….but I paid very little attention to politics. It wasn’t cool, it wasn’t comfortable, it took too much energy to try to understand it all.

In light of my conversation with my aunt, let me tell you something about the women of family. I come from a long line of wise, strong women with an undefeatable spirit. They crossed the ocean to a new, unfamiliar land filled with hope and, I would imagine, a little trepidation; but they didn’t let that stop them. They crossed the plains and forded rivers in covered wagons with children in tow filled with hope and a little trepidation; but they didn’t let that stop them. They lived in dugouts, built homes of raw timber, planted crops, raised livestock while raising a family with hope and a little trepidation; but they didn’t let that stop them. They raised families, took care of finances, found work outside of the home or took in washing while their husbands, brothers, sons fought in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. They raised families while attending colleges and universities to become teachers, journalists, nurses, entrepreneurs with hope and a little trepidation; but they didn’t let that stop them.

So, when my aunt gently rebuked me for not being appraised of current political issues I didn’t take it lightly. She reminded me that it is my obligation as a citizen to pay attention because politics, in many ways, shape our lives. It is also my obligation to pay attention because of all the women who came before me that weren’t allowed to enjoy the same privileges that I enjoy.

If I would have marched, I would have marched for all those strong, wise women with an undefeatable spirit that took on life and an ever-changing society with hope and a little bit of trepidation that didn’t slow them down. I would have marched for women who came long before me and wagered everything for my privilege to vote. I would have marched for the women who fought for my right to choose when I start a family. I would have marched for the people who have fought for my friends and family in the LGBTQ community to openly love who and how they love. I would have marched for clean air, fresh water, and National Parks that give us respite and remind us how we are connected to Mother Earth. I would have marched for the marginalized whose voices can’t be heard. I would have marched for equal pay for equal work, for affordable health care for all, for immigrants, for refugees, for Muslims, for my black brothers and sisters who “can’t breathe” and are raised knowing that at some point in their lives they will face racism in some form. I can’t possibly list everything. The gist is this….we have come so far. We have come so far but we still have so far to go. We have come so very far and we must NOT allow a step back.

We are facing something entirely new an unprecedented in our country. With all of the wise, strong women with an undefeatable spirit from my past, my present, and my future standing with me I plan to move forward with hope, and a little bit of trepidation. But I don’t plan on letting that stop me.

The salvation of the state is the watchfulness of the citizens

“THE SALVATION OF THE STATE IS THE WATCHFULNESS OF THE CITIZENS” – a quote from Alexander Hartley Burron on the edifice of the Nebraska State Capitol building.

I walked because in the richest nation on earth no one should have to go without the health care they need.
I walked because I don’t want our Grandson or anyone’s grandsons, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents have to fight a war that was started by a President that listens only to a chosen few who have no expertise at the same time refusing to listen to those who do.
I walk because I want a President that obeys the Constitution.  One example: divest himself of his financial interest.
I walk because I want a President that believes in the rule of law.
I walked because I don’t want parents to have the difficult task of convincing their children that they should not bully, disparage, or call people names when the President of our nation has and continues to do so.
I walked because I want a president that does not rain disrespect and retribution on those who do not agree with him.
I walked because I want a President who is respectful of our neighboring countries, friends and allies.
I walked because I want a government that is respectful and accepting of all people no matter their skin color or their religion.
I walked because I want a government that understands that global warming is in fact true and the results will be catastrophic for our children and grandchildren.
I walked because money is not speech and corporations are not people.
I walked because I do not want a Governor using his independent wealth to politicize the Unicameral and get elected only people that are beholden to him.
I walked because the Unicameral is being pushed to becoming a partisan body instead of a body that works together for the good of all Nebraskans.
I walked because I want a government, both state and national, that works for the good of its citizens not the wealthy and corporations.
I walked because I want a government that protects the citizens, not corporations, and works to do for the people what they can not do for themselves.
I walked because I want a government that wants its citizens to have clean air, clean water, safe food, safe transportation, etc.
I walked because privatization is not the answer to our schools, our road system, our postal system, etc.
I walked because a woman should have the right to make her own decisions concerning her body.
I walked for my husband and all those others who could not make the march but would have been there if it had not been for their circumstances.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” – Edmon Burke

I Marched as a Mother, a Daughter, a Human Being, and as an American

I marched as a mother of a daughter so that she may have full control over her body and family-planning decisions. I marched as a daughter of a mother so that her Medicare and Medicaid will not be privatized. I marched for friends with chronic and preexisting conditions so that they can continue to get treatment in this, the richest country in the world.  I marched as a human being who needs environmental regulations to ensure that I and my fellow Americans have non-polluted water to drink and air to breathe.  I marched as an American against Trump’s ideology and his utterly unqualified and even Nazi Cabinet appointments.

My concerns for the rights of my fellow Americans

I marched because I wanted to hold a candle to the many issues clouding our American government.  I marched because I came of age in the presidency of Barack Obama, who taught me about hope, optimism, grace, and democracy.  I marched because of Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose unapologetic intelligence, toughness, and perseverance has inspired me since I was a high schooler in a small town where no one cared about politics.  I marched because I’m grateful for the rights I do have as an American citizen–and how I’ve never felt as patriotic as I felt on my first Election Day morning, casting my first vote for president for a woman (and knowing how much that moment would mean to my mother, my grandmother, and my 105-year-old great-grandmother).  I marched because all of the people above have inspired me to attend law school in the future and I wanted to view this nation’s democracy at work.  I marched because I’m worried for the future of our world.  I marched for myself and my rights as a woman, but my concerns about my own rights are heavily outweighed by my concerns for the rights of my fellow Americans.  I marched for every woman I know, women and people of color (because BLACK LIVES MATTER!!!!), for trans women whose existence is ignored far too often by feminists and others alike, for immigrants whose existence alone is a positive contribution to the framework of this nation, for Muslims who shouldn’t have to live in fear, for everyone I know who is LGBTQ+ (because LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE), for the water protectors and to say NO to DAPL, for our planet because science is real, for the rights of people with disabilities, for an end to systemic gun violence, mass incarcerations and police brutality, to save our nation’s healthcare, for a free press, for the refugees who just need a hand, and for everyone who makes up this already great nation, even those who believe a Women’s March and protesting are unnecessary.  I marched because I may be young now, but someday I’ll have grandchildren.  I marched because someday they will ask me how I could have let such backwards, hateful rhetoric happen.  I marched because I want to be able to say to them with my whole heart and without misgivings, “I didn’t.”