In Seattle alone, some 175,000 people showed up to march for women’s rights (though exact numbers are hard to come by and often contested). That’s impressive. Although the number of participants was vastly different, one couldn’t help but be reminded of the Seattle Seahawks’ Superbowl victory parade in 2014. There’s always something mesmerizing about thousands of people coming together for a common cause.
I say “common cause” but, to be honest, the commonality of the cause was somewhat hard to find unless we’re talking about a general hatred for Trump. Women’s rights advocates, gay rights activists, Bernie Sanders supporters, Hillary Clinton supporters, abortion rights supporters, Russian hacking denouncers and those who wanted to voice their concern about the nuclear arms race all seemed to find this a fitting platform to make their voices heard. It was somewhat confusing and hard to figure out what the march was really supposed to be about. Here’s a quick sampling of the placards that could be seen at the rally:
“Still Berning for you!” (with a photo of Bernie Sanders)
“Cutting access to reproductive health care would be a Tyrannosaurus wreck.”
“Register to vote.”
“Immigration does not cause job loss!”
“Love is our Trump card!” (painted in the colors of the rainbow)
“Make Russia great again.”
There were also pictures of Trump dressed up to look like Hitler and Stalin, pictures of Trump as a puppet with Putin pulling the strings, and swastikas that were crossed out.
As I watched the march, I had two reactions.
First of all, regardless of where any of us might stand on any of these issues, we should all be excited to see people come together for change. At a time when almost 42 percent of voters didn’t bother to vote, we should be hopeful that we, as Americans, are willing not only to voice our opinion and yell slogans but to actually turn that energy into action. Change shouldn’t be something that we leave to government officials. We need to step up and bring about the changes that are needed ourselves.
By the way, lest we forget (and it seems like we have), there were massive protests in all 50 states back when Obama was elected president in 2008, complete with some slogans and placards that were just as mean-spirited as those we are seeing in protests against President Trump.
Secondly, I was saddened as I watched because I suspected that most of the people protesting were there because, at some point, they had experienced some of the discrimination, violence, abuse and hate they were marching against. I saw the faces of women and men in the crowd who live with the scars of having been raped, abused or attacked. I saw the faces of people who had not been able to advance in life because they were the “wrong” sex, the “wrong” religion, the “wrong” nationality, or because their sexual identity didn’t meet someone else’s standards.
I can understand their anger. They have a right to let the world know that this kind of treatment is not OK. No one has the right to treat any other human with anything less than respect and love.
Unfortunately, I was further saddened as I watched many of these protesters treating those who don’t agree with them with the same disrespect they themselves were protesting. Is it OK to protest unfair treatment and discrimination by treating others unfairly and to discriminate against them? We have no right to yell about injustice when we are treating others unjustly; we have no right to push others aside in order to push ourselves to the front. Treating another with disrespect to get them to listen to how you've been treated with disrespect isn't a protest, it's just plain bullying and it's wrong.
Rob Vajko lives in Purdy.