So yesterday (21 January 2017), for anyone who doesn’t already know, the day after the tragic inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the (not-so-) United States (I will not give him the dignity of the office and refer to him as President Trump, he’s a loathsome despotic buffoon #notmypresident), was also the day of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in major (and not-so-major!) cities throughout the US and beyond.
I was marching in Philadelphia, the most practical one for me to get to (I did consider trying to get to DC, but it wasn’t feasible for me, especially considering I’d had to work a night shift the night before and timing was already tight). I was pretty exhausted in all honesty, especially without caffeine and without much food all day, but it barely mattered; it was a bit of a struggle to get to the station on time, but the sheer energy kept me going from the moment I got on the train (nearly the entire train was people going to the march and everyone was talking about it, and I’m pretty sure the train conductors and such were also supporting us because they didn’t collect tickets).
I wish I’d thought to take photos of the signs, there were some really brilliant ones and it was an absolute pleasure to see, though there were so many and there was so much going on that I barely remember anything. Here are a few links that show some of them.
I didn’t have a chance to make a sign of my own or anything, which I felt a bit guilty about, but I was at least wearing my It’s Time 2016 pin (designed for the DNC by my uncle Brett, actually; here’s a good image of the design) which elicited some nice comments too. I’ve refused to stop wearing that since the election; I wouldn’t feel right without at least some indication that I am not a Trump supporter and I am not okay with this.
Anyway, I wish I had better words to describe what the protest was like. It was really something. I’ve been to a few other protests/rallies/etc (probably not as many as I ought to have, truthfully) but I’ve never seen anything remotely like this.
(As a brief aside, at one point somebody thanked me for being there, as a man. While it feels nice to hear I don’t think thanking me for that was appropriate, and I was far from the only man there, nor the only man there not part of a group that included women. This stuff is important and I felt I had to be there, that I had an obligation to stand up for ideals that matter to me and people who are going to be harmed. That’s basic human decency and shouldn’t be considered exceptional.)
I will say that there was something very reassuring about being in a huge crowd of people, and being able to strike up a conversation with anyone there and know they’re on your side and vice versa (I met and had discussions with a lot of really interesting people). To the extent that the march was as much for us as it was for the purpose of sending a message, I think that aspect was certainly successful (case in point, I observed that some of the signs I saw were very highbrow and e.g. talking about the importance of intersectionality, and on commenting to someone that I thought that message might be too subtle for the people we hope to reach, that very point was made to me).
At the same time, on some level I do have to wonder where all of this energy was before the election. Did we just feel like we didn’t have anything to worry about? I was certainly anxious, as were a lot of people I knew. Were we shocked out of complacency? (While I agree with the sentiment, when someone said to me that Trump had no redeeming quality whatsoever I found I had to respond that maybe we should consider the way he’s galvanising the Left and driving so many to take action, that his very odiousness is useful in giving us something concrete to oppose. It’s not much of a silver lining and I don’t really think it’s a comfort, and the price of Trump’s election is far too high for that result, but it’s still worth acknowledging.)
The magnitude of the protests are also making me question the legitimacy of the election on more levels than I was before; I hesitate to say this because it smacks of conspiracism, but especially in contrast to the inauguration attendance numbers the scale of the Women’s Marches (and the degree to which their attendance vastly exceeded expectations in so many locations) makes me wonder if the vote numbers really could have been fiddled with (even beyond the fact that Popular Vote Loser Trump had three million fewer votes; we cannot stop emphasising that).
Please excuse me for a moment, I feel like using some video game metaphors.
It’s been observed in many places (I wish I could properly attribute this but I don’t know where it originated) that Trump, as a walking embodiment of patriarchy, misogyny and white male entitlement, among other things, was the perfect “final boss” to Hillary Clinton’s explicitly feminist campaign (and larger career). I agreed with this sentiment at the time, but after seeing the result I think my disbelief is better explained by extending the metaphor a bit.
Final bosses exist to be defeated and triumphed over. But games often have other kinds of bosses; for instance, there’s a trope called “Hopeless Boss Fight” for when the game intends the player to lose. Sometimes this is just done by hard-coding it so that nothing you do works, but sometimes the game allows you to have a bit of hope first (or even a slight reward for going against the narrative), and if you work hard enough, train hard enough and use the right tactics, you can pull off a victory in spite of the intended result (after which usually there’s some kind of hard-coded ass-pull to get the plot back on track). In other cases, winning when you’re not supposed to just makes the game crash, or arbitrarily force a game over screen. “Fuck you, you weren’t supposed to be able to win! Game over.”
I can’t help thinking that what happened in our election looks something like that. The contrived-looking, bizarre nature of Trump’s “victory” (a margin of just under eighty thousand votes, across three states, to flip the Electoral College numbers in spite of a massive popular vote loss) reminds me of those moments when a player accomplishes a task they’re meant not to, and the writers, as an outside force, use arbitrary contrivances to get things back to where they want them. (Why hello there, Mr Putin. Obviously I don’t have proof of that, but it’s looking more and more likely with every bit of information that comes out. To my mind the only questions can be about the extent of the interference, not whether it existed at all.) So a part of me looks at the results of this election and thinks they look obviously manipulated, and must be rejected as invalid (I’d hoped for the Electoral College to take action there, but in failing to do so they have destroyed any remaining justification for that institution’s continued existence).
But life isn’t a video game. Life doesn’t have writers dictating how the plot is meant to go. Why are so many people seemingly willing to go along with this, and to allow it to be normalised? Are people seriously saying that (irrespective of potential Russian involvement) the bigots and xenophobes and theocrats and the rest of their despicable ilk worked so hard for this triumph that they deserve to have it at the rest of our expense?
It’s clear not everyone is. The Women’s March shows that. Democratic Senators grilling Trump’s deplorable cabinet nominees shows that. Congresspeople boycotting the inauguration shows that. But there is undoubtedly more we can do, and we must do it.
Resist however you can, and be seen doing it if you can. This cannot be allowed to stand.