Women’s March 1-20-18, East Haddam, Connecticut
One year ago, many people predicted the Women’s March would fizzle out —
that we couldn’t sustain the momentum. But in this past year,
it’s only grown broader and deeper and more ferocious and more inclusive and now nothing coming out of Washington escapes our notice, or our resistance.
Not the racism, misogyny, or lies.
Not the disastrous economic polices,
the rape of the land,
the suppression of voters’ rights.
We haven’t overlooked all the attacks on the First Amendment.
Nor the homophobia, Islamophobia, or xenophobia.
Not the deportation of families nor the subjugation of unarmed black people.
Or the mocking of people with disabilities.
Not the attacks on the elderly and the young,
on healthcare and education,
on living wages and working families.
It has not escaped our notice that this administration
is defunding programs for veterans,
kicking brave transgendered soldiers out of the military,
and attacking women’s reproductive rights that have been in place for decades.
We have paid attention to the fracking, back-stabbing, pussy-grabbing, money-grubbing and gerrymandering.
The Women’s March has grown to encompass it all.
Because, to quote the renowned African-American civil rights lawyer Constance Baker Motley (who lived in Chester, by the way):
“There appears to be no limit as to how far the women’s revolution will take us.”
That’s why we’re all still here, a year later.
So thank you for coming together today. For not being afraid to show your compassion.
Thank you for standing next to someone you don’t know, but someone you trust believes, as you do, in what’s right.
Thank you for paying attention to what’s going on in our fractured, frightened world.
Thank you, Together We Rise, the Valley Stands Up, Action Together, Indivisible, Politica CT, Emerge, Ella’s List, SLDW, and ALL the new, well organized progressive groups.
Special thanks to the hard-core folks who have kept vigil at this enlightened business, Two Wrasslin’ Cats, through rain and sweltering heat, every Saturday, for a year.
Let’s talk about the word “vigil” — it means, literally, to stay awake when others are sleeping.
It’s where we get “vigilant” — and we all know the importance of keeping an eye on our government these days.
But it’s also where we get “vigilante.” So in our zeal to reject the Trump administration’s “normalization” of evil and in our defense of the truth, we need to keep listening and talking to one another so the power doesn’t continue to get concentrated in the hands of the few.
That’s what this march — and last year’s march — and all the marches yet to come — are about. Keeping the power with us, the people. — saying “yes” to vigil” and “no” to vigilante. Because, contrary to what that dangerous, malevolent buffoon in the White House thinks, there are no “fine” or “well-meaning” Neo-Nazis.
The great labor activist Cesar Chavez knew this. He said, “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.”
I think a lot about Chavez these days. It’s hard not to wonder what he and other social justice leaders of the past would say to us now.
In 1974, when I was in high school, some friends and I helped organize a rally in the North End of Hartford, at the Horace Bushnell Church, to raise money for the United Farmworkers Union. We brought Delores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to the city. It was a beastly hot night. The church was old, and poor, and without air conditioning. There were about 100 of us. We listened to that great man speak, and then we danced an impromptu, free-form little contra dance. It was one of the greatest thrills of my life — to have Cesar Chavez “do-si-do” me around. Sweat was streaming down his face, and I asked him if he needed to rest — he was 47, but to me, at 17, he seemed ancient and I was afraid he’d pass out in the heat.
“No,” he said. “Let’s dance.”
“But it’s so hot…”
“No, he said. “Look around this room at these beautiful faces. It’s not hot in here, it’s very, very cool.”
So today, on this New England winter day, I suggest we look around at these beautiful faces — these faces of justice and change — and we feel the fire in this crowd.
To the folks who’ve marched before — yes, it’s hard to believe we’re still fighting.
If you, too, marched with the Farmworkers, or were a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights era, you may be weary of the fight.
If you protested the Viet Nam War — or fought in it — or the wars that followed.
If you were a first wave feminist in the women’s movement, or protested nuclear expansion.
If you joined the American Indian Movement, or the fight for same-sex marriage.
If you Occupied Wall Street, and know that Black Lives Matter, you may be tired.
For so long, it seems, we’ve been boycotting, and protesting, and working to right what is wrong. But please, do not give up.
We are buoyed not only by one another, but in remarkable new ways, by a smart, hardworking and committed group of young people.
And to you Millennials, thank you. For some of us, our first political memory is JFK’s assassination, and the spate of assassinations that followed.
Yours is the explosion of the Twin Towers. You have heard your parents worry because of the financial implosion of 2008. And you’re saddled with debt and a bad job market.
You had no hand in creating any of this.
But you are also the first generation to instinctively accept the fact that we all have the right to love whomever we choose.
As technological natives, you have networking skills this movement needs.
And your passion and energy cannot be overestimated.
It’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves — whether for the first time or the hundred-and-first. So, some practical steps we can all take:
If you’re old enough to vote, do it. Don’t forget the municipal elections, which have been lost and won by a handful of votes.
If you are unaffiliated, please consider registering with a party so you can vote in the primary.
If you have a driver’s license and a car, offer to drive an elderly voter to the polls in November.
If you have any disposable income, support candidates you believe in.
If you can walk, knock on doors.
If you can hear, make telephone calls.
If you like to cook, make food for a house party.
If you speak a language other than English, offer to translate for an immigrants’ rights group.
If you can write, pen an op-ed or a letter to the editor.
If you teach, welcome difficult conversations in the classroom.
If you can speak into a mic, testify at the Capitol. Your elected leaders will listen to you. And if they DON’T, vote them out!
Because just as we say NO to so much going on in Washington, we’re here today to say YES to many things, too.
YES to a free and unfettered press that is fighting back, that will not, to paraphrase the Washington Post, let democracy die in darkness;
YES to new leadership in government.
YES to that voice within each of us that says, Now is the time.
So, yes, stay vigilant. But stay hopeful, too. Above all, stay together.