“Your task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi
When a friend asked me last weekend what the Women’s March was about, I could tell she was having difficulty discerning truth from all the hyperbole gushing from every perspective. I thought she might be having a difficult time reconciling the fact that people she loves fiercely have diametrically opposed viewpoints – and nothing I said about the Women’s March would necessarily be helpful with that issue.
Her question did give me pause, though. Millions of people around the world marched that day. I could not begin to speak for such a huge group of people – anyone who feels comfortable characterizing the whole or summing them up with one or a few pithy statements or soundbites (whether pro or con) is likely to miss the mark. And since I couldn’t answer my friend’s question for the whole, I wanted to answer it in the particular – for myself, the one person whose reasons I needed to be clear on.
So, I made a list. It was a magnificent list! I listed all of the issues and ideals that I am concerned our country isn’t adequately supporting under our new administration: equal opportunity and equal rights for all, voting rights, affordable and just health care policies, immigrant rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, preventing gun violence, protecting families in need and the federal programs that support them…it was a long list and had soon filled two sides of a piece of paper.
After a while, I stopped and looked at the list. That’s when I realized that this lengthy laundry list was not really why I marched. Sure, I care about these things – I’ve cared about these things most of my life and I’ve often felt that, as a country, we weren’t doing enough or were doing something but missing the mark.
So I made a new list. At the top of the list I wrote: #WhyIMarch: (which also happens to be a social media hashtag used by many). And the reason that came immediately to mind was: Love.
- Love led me to march in Dubuque, Iowa where an estimated 600 people gathered, instead of marching in larger crowds in Des Moines or Chicago. Dubuque, my hometown, where I could stand side-by-side with women I love: my cousin Stephanie and my dear friend, Sue and some of the women who taught be to care about the world around me.
- Love led me to march in solidarity with my sister, Anne, and with all the queer folk I admire and care about. Since the day she was born, Annie has been one of the great loves of my life. Annie doesn’t need to be cured of anything, thanks; but she does need and deserve legal protections and a world that accepts her innate right to exist (and thrive, and love) without fear of violence and discrimination.
- Love for my niece, Zoe, who attends public school in Chicago, led me to march. Zoe is bright and engaged, and at eleven she can already reason better than many adults. She deserves an education that reflects the fact that we live in the greatest nation in the world. And because I love Zoe and want this for her, I also want it for all the children – even those living in lower income neighborhoods or communities without a strong tax base to support their schools.
- Love for this Earth led me to march with deep concern for the environment and for continuing the momentum against climate change that has been gathering globally. I want my country to lead on these issues, not bring up the rear. Pope Francis admonishes us to “hear both the cry of the earth, and the cry of the poor”, to practice an integral ecology – and because I love this universe we were created to be a part of, I am doing my best to heed this call.
- Love for all of my nieces: Myka, Rachel, Hallie, Atalie, Zoe, Nikki, Emma, Elsa, Ada, Carys led me to walk. It leads me to want a world for them in which they are free to walk safely on city streets, country roads, running paths and wooded parks without fear. A world where they are protected legally if the men in their lives behave violently toward them. A world where the laws that are already on the books are actually applied. I want them to feel loved and supported as contributing members of society – whether they work in the home or outside. When/if they have babies, I want their health care to be the best available, and I don’t want them to become statistics in a United States where mortality rates for mothers are rising.
- Love for my nephews: Ben, Tim, Ezra, and the tiniest yet-to-be-born little baby E., was part of why I marched, too. I want them to live in a world where their strengths are cherished and so are their gentler attributes. I want them to live in a country where the men around them – regardless of their income level or the color of their skin – have had the same opportunities. I hope they live in a world where, if they or their families should need help to thrive, that assistance is available without forcing the diminishment of their self-respect.
- Love for my parents took my feet to the march. These two have always worked hard, made the best of what life dished out, and tried to leave a better world than they were born into. They deserve a retirement without constant financial worries and stress over changes to “entitlement” programs enacted by people who will always have an easier retirement than my Mom and Pop (due in significant part to the fact we taxpayers will foot the bill for their peace of mind).
- Love for my former students led me to march for today’s young adults. In my 25 years on college campuses, I worked with: uncountable suicidal and mentally ill students who could not get mental health care because of ever-shrinking community resources; dozens of young men and women who faced discrimination and bullying for daring to explore, and to share truthfully, their own identities; enough young women who had been physically, sexually or mentally abused or assaulted to lose count – and almost invariably these young women were treated shabbily by the very people/systems ostensibly designed to protect them – as well as blamed/shamed by their peers. Each of these students deserved better than they got, and I want more resources to be made available for them and for their peers who aren’t in school instead of fewer resources for communities that are already hurting.
- Love of self, too, added to my desire to march. I marched because my life has dignity and meaning despite the fact that many, many people have tried to tell me otherwise. Those who think I am somehow “suspect” as a woman because I am single and not a mother, those who have felt it was their right to publicly humiliate me for their own pleasure because I haven’t met their standards of beauty, those who have behaved with physical and/or sexual aggression toward me because they perceived me as “fair game”, those who have disrespected me, talked over me, paid me less and tried to silence my voice because I am a woman – those individuals have only made me more determined to speak, from love, for my own right to fairness and justice.
- Love for the ideal of sisterhood, for the reality of sisterhood, and for the incredible history of sisterhood on this planet.
Love. It’s why I marched – for the love, the people, and the reasons listed above and for more on my list at home. I know that other marchers had different lists – some shared concerns and some disparate. I understand that there are those who are critical of the Women’s March – and that is their right, too. To be clear, though: I wasn’t duped into marching for something I didn’t support regardless of what anyone else’s reasons were and, despite ludicrous assertions to the contrary, George Soros did NOT pay me to walk on Saturday.
It would have been easier and more comfortable to stay at home, but I felt called to go. I didn’t carry a sign. All I took with me were my sisters and my heart full of love.