I was not able to march, but I wanted to march. First and foremost, I believe citizen engagement is important to our governmental process. I am saddened by the division in our country and hate the way partisan politics seems to make compromise so difficult. I believe in social justice. I believe our country is strong when we are inclusive. I believe in the empowerment of women and the objectifying comments made by our president sicken me. As a victim of gun violence, I am for reasonable gun control. I believe words matter; the current president’s use of language scares me. His words are divisive, dismissive, and not very deep. I am for life from conception to natural death and for social programs that help people in desperate situations. I want all people to feel safe. The current administration makes me feel less safe. I am paying attention and will stay engaged. I am a proud American.
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.
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?
I marched for my two sons (and I marched alongside my older son), so they know the strength of collective action and understand the importance of equal rights and protections for all people. I marched for my mother, whose reproductive health has been supported by Planned Parenthood and other organizations over several decades, and who taught me to stand up for what I believe. I marched for my sister, who serves in the armed services and faces sexism and harassment by men who are supposed to be her comrades. I marched for my students, to protest sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus, and to support their ongoing right to an open, equal, and scientifically-based education. I marched to show my support for family planning funding; for immigrants’ rights and protections; for full equality for LGBTQ individuals; for people of color who still face both subtle and overt forms of discrimination in many areas of their lives; for women who face discrimination in education, employment, reproductive health, breastfeeding, childrearing (or choosing not to have children at all), and even while walking down the street as they are subjected–as I myself have been–to harassment and fear of assault. I marched to support the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid, to provide necessary health coverage for all individuals regardless of preexisting conditions, income, age, and other characteristics. I marched for reasonable gun control to keep our schools and public spaces safe, and because no child should be afraid to go to school or be distracted by the presence of guns in their schools. I marched because I love the State of Nebraska, I love my community, and I love my country. I marched because I believe in the promises made throughout our history of freedom, equality, justice, and protection from persecution and harm, and I believe our future can be more civil, more equal, more welcoming, more supportive, and more forward-looking than our present. I believe in the Nebraska state motto: “Equality before the law.” Let’s get to work achieving that equality.