The United States of America I want to live in is welcoming of all people, regardless of their country of origin or religious background. The best way to experience the world, or to counter terrorism, is through generosity, making new friends, stretching our comfort levels, facing our fears, welcoming strangers — indeed, this may be the most effective way to protect our families, as well as our country and what it stands for.
This past weekend, I joined about 470,000 others for the women’s march in Washington, D.C. I am a man, but as one sign said it so eloquently, “Men of quality stand for women’s equality.” It was an honor to be there, with my girlfriend and with my mother, who retired this year after many years working to advance women’s equality and reduce racial discrimination within our legal system.
I drove down from western Massachusetts in a car with four women, and Godzilla, a toy from one of the women’s sons. He had given it especially to her, and she chose to march with it, making a “pussyhat” from the finger of a pink glove for the monster to wear. As we drove, she held Godzilla in the window, startling other drivers as we drove past them on the interstate.
We stopped at a rest stop along the way, probably around 11pm at night, that was filled with people, mostly in their twenties and thirties, mostly women but some men. The air was charged with energy. In the parking lot, my girlfriend jumped up and down and danced to help stay awake, and encourage us to also stay awake.
We finally arrived around 1am on Saturday, and crashed on couches and the floor in sleeping bags that night at a friend’s house. They were prepared. A poster board greeted us, telling us there would be a crockpot of oatmeal for us in the morning. They had already bought metro cards in case the stations had long lines. Together — our group of five, and the family we were staying with, and the family’s friends who were also crashing there, and some of their children — we walked to the station.
The trains were packed. We stood next to a group of young professionals — including a social worker and a doctor — who joked and laughed. When we got out at the next station to transfer, it was filled with protestors wearing “pussyhats” and carrying signs. There was lots of positive energy in the air. Many people were smiling. Then, a cry, a cheer spread from the women coming out of the trains. The cry spread across the entire station, reverberating around the high ceilings. A strong cry, a rallying cry. It gave me the shivers. It was strange and beautiful to hear so many women’s voices calling out together. Of course, there were men, including myself, who also joined the cheer, but the pitch was mostly women’s.