This is What Democracy Looks Like
Every time someone yelled “Tell me what democracy looks like,” and a roaring crowd responded, “This is what democracy looks like,” I felt my heart lift with hope just a little bit on Saturday during the Women’s March on Washington.
I first heard this refrain when we stepped out of the subway. Filled with excitement and anticipation, my husband, daughter, friend, niece and her friend joined a sea of people hoisting posters above their heads for the nearly one hour it took us just to walk from the train to the towering escalators we had to climb to exit the station.
Give Me a Sign
There were so many people, it was a very slow plod. But, it gave us our first glimpse at all of the protest signs and there were a lot. To me the signs and their messages represented the heart of the demonstrators.
Some were pointed.
Some were clever.
Some showed a sense of humor. (Something that’s essential for a demonstration.)
Some showed support.
Some were even literary themed. (Of course, as an author, these have to be my favorite. Literature is about holding a mirror up to society and showing it the truth, making these all the more appropriate.)
All represented the collective ideal that “we will not be silenced.” The majority will stand up for ourselves and each other.
Which one best embodied me? This one.
Holding Each Other Up
Eventually, the sardine shuffle continued from the subway to Independence Avenue and 12th street. Once we got to the rally, we had plans to make our way to 7th to meet some friends. Instead we got caught in the net of people and there was no possible way we could move a few feet, let alone several blocks.
So we stayed put and waited for the march to begin. Several women climbed up into the trees nearby. They described the crowd to us as filled with pink pussy cat-hat clad women and men (yes men wore them too) all the way from the beginning of the rally on 2nd street and down past us in the other direction. It was then I realized we weren’t just part of something big, we were part of something amazing.
As we stood there, pressed up closely to strangers who quickly became friends, it could have gone badly. One shove or one push could have started a dangerous chain reaction. But it didn’t. When an ambulance had to get through the crowd and we all had to make room, even though we didn’t even have inches between us, we moved. To me it was like a giant group hug.
We were there to hold each other up, not push each other down.
I’m not saying it wasn’t unpleasant. We stood like that for over an hour. But, it was worth it. It demonstrated (pun intended) the will, love and resolve of the people. Even the police officer watching over our area, who probably should have been a little wary after having his car nearly disappear in the sea of protesters, stood on the top of his cruiser, engaging with the crowd and taking pictures for them. And, when a woman fainted, he jumped into action. I was very proud of that man in blue yesterday.
Let the March Begin
Finally, the march got underway. It felt almost poetic. After being oppressively bunched together, restricted, we were free to move, free to walk. And we did. We walked. We caught each others eyes and nodded, all connected in our collective knowledge that today we marched for what was right and good.
And we talked. We talked to people about where they were from and why they were marching. We met people not just from DC, Northern Virginia, or Maryland. We met women and men from places like North Carolina and West Virginia, even as far away as California. All who shared our same desire – a government that cares about freedom and rights for all, not just the few men who wrangled power.
We were only 6 at the beginning of our trip.
And we became 600,000+.
With the Washington monument at our side, I sensed the roar in the distance, something starting, something that can’t be stopped. The will of the people who stand up for everyone, not the will of the rich elites, walked the streets of the Washington, DC, yesterday, and other cities across the US, even the world. And it said, enjoy your stolen power, because we’re taking our country back and when we do, we will continue to make an already great nation, even greater.
This is what democracy looks like.