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.

All Three of Us from Diverse Backgrounds, Working Hard to Contribute to Our Local Community

I marched in Washington with two of my best friends from Lincoln High School (Graduation 2001).  One is an immigrant from Mexico and the other a refugee from Vietnam. We marched hand in hand, as beautiful representatives of what makes America amazing! All three of us from diverse backgrounds, working hard to contribute to our local community, as educators, business owners, researchers. We marched that day to protect the rights of women and men from diverse backgrounds to feel safe in our community and nation, to protect their right to flourish. To send a message that we reject hateful words, actions, and executive orders. That we stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable and marginalized in our community. We march to ensure that America remains free and open and loving, the unique experiment.

Equal Rights, Love of Country, and Hope

I marched for a million reasons and some that can never truly be expressed through words.  I marched to have my own voice heard, but also to be the voice for others who can not speak or may not know they need to.  I marched because I believe in civil liberties, human rights, black lives matter, LGBTQ+ equality, My Rights to Choose, Love Trumping Hate, Free and Decent Education, and yes – love of my Country.  I marched because I have Hope over everything else.

It is My Turn to March for Equal Rights for ALL

I marched because I oppose everything Trump and his White House cabinet represent. I marched because he does NOT represent me or my country. I marched for women’s rights, refugee rights, LGBT rights, and equal rights for ALL. I marched because the women decades ago marched for my rights and it’s my turn to make a difference.

I Marched for Women’s Rights

Say what you want, but women are not treated equally.

I’ll never forget times I’ve learned (twice now) that a male coworker who had less experience than me made more money than I did.

Or when I took a 12-week unpaid maternity leave after having my son and my boss snarkily referred to it as a vacation when I returned.

Or when I was roofied at a bar by a friend of a friend and was almost assaulted.

Or when men speak over me during meetings.

Or when my ideas aren’t taken seriously.

Or when I’ve had to ask a male coworker to present an idea for me because I knew it would be given more merit simply because it was coming from “one of the guys”.

Or when I’ve been labeled as aggressive and bitchy at work for behaviors that would be labeled as leadership if they came from a man.

Or when teachers, professors, and bosses have hit on me and put me in uncomfortable, inappropriate situations and suggested I would “benefit” in some way if I compromised my integrity.

Or when my ass was grabbed while waitressing.

Or when I walk somewhere alone at night with my keys between my fingers like Wolverine and have to be hyper vigilant due to the danger of being assaulted.

Or when people I work with don’t think I can excel at my job because I am the mother of 2 young children.

I could list every transgression I’ve suffered, but that’s not the point. I will be the first to admit that I have had a privileged life. Many more women have suffered and endured far more than I could ever imagine.

Until women are truly, unequivocally equal, we will continue to fight for these rights. THAT, is why we marched!

I Want Members of Congress to Have Courage (and they need to if they want to keep their jobs)

Why did I march?

Some folks have suggested it is an emotional response. OK. I’ll admit to being shaken in November – not only by the election of Trump, but by the idea that so many of my fellow citizens would vote for him. I am angry. I am scared about what the future holds for the next four years, and well beyond.

Maybe this is desperation. But desperation is not all bad. When there are no simple logical solutions, perhaps the desperate act is logical. To do nothing while Trump appoints cabinet secretaries to departments they are hostile to is not acceptable to me. To do nothing while he dismantles the Affordable Care Act without a soft landing to millions who depend on it is not acceptable. To do nothing while the GOP pushes through tax cuts that will explode the deficit as a pay-off to the wealthy is not acceptable.

I need to do something and marching was something to do.  I’m hoping it has value. If it does not, hopefully the next thing I do will. The political process is not limited to elections. This is happening now. I’m not waiting two years to take action.

What do I hope to accomplish?

I have no hopes that a march will drive a revolt or a dismantling of the electoral college. I know Trump will not be impeached over any of the things we know today. I know he doesn’t care about me or my concerns.  And whether I get 10 million people to sing Kumbaya in perfect harmony is irrelevant to that fact.

But, I have hope for Republican leaders. They are the only ones who can slow Trump down from some of his most destructive tendencies. Fortunately, I don’t think many GOP congressmen are really on board with Trump. But they’re scared of him. He and his followers can end their careers. Trump has leverage over them, and many of them lack the political courage to stand up to him. For example, after the “pussy grab” tape came out, many of the GOP politicians piled on Trump. He then struck back. His numbers went down. Their numbers went down more. And they folded, with some notable exceptions like McCain and Sasse.

While it doesn’t say much for their character, it does give us a possible path forward. If Congressmen are too cowardly to cross Trump, we need to make it just as bad politically to side with him. A massive progressive/moderate resurgence is the only path to that end. Maybe that wasn’t just 15,000 -20,000 progressives marching for an event. Maybe it is 15,000+ foot soldiers signing up for duty. The 100+ people on these two buses are spending 60 hours away from any comforts of home, including showers or beds, to have their voices heard. And they’re all smiling today. There is a political movement coming for any congressman who cowers from Trump. We’re saying, “Fear us more than Trump.”  If they want to keep their jobs, they will need to hear us.

I Had to March; There was No Question Whether I Should

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Photo Credit – Sara Sawatzki, Open Road Photographer 2017

I am a Mother, Grandmother, Spouse, Aunt, Cousin, Daughter, Granddaughter and organic farmer (for 25 years).

I had to march; there was no question whether I should. I’ll be 70 years old in July and I have experienced the women’s rights movement and what was fought for in the 60’s. I’ve seen women’s rights slowly evolve so women have so many choices not thought possible for my generation. To see our rights erode for my daughters, seven granddaughters, and all women of all religions, cultures, sexuality, economic status is not acceptable. We have much more to do and shouldn’t have to be spending our time defending our rights that we have. We do not have equal pay, no matter what white males say.

I marched for environmental and social justice. A healthy and social environment will help ensure a positive future for future generations, men and women.