Upstate Coalition

for Equality

What I’m for, what I’m against, and why I attended the Women’s March on Washington

by Kelly Cooper Gregory

I am now home from D.C. I have snuggled with my daughter. I have hugged my amazing, supportive, respectful husband- and given thanks a million times over that he is the kind of man that he is. I have texted friends. Looked at pictures. Answered emails. And now I find myself lying here in the quiet, trying to at least begin to process everything I have experienced in the past three days.  But I've realized that is going to take a while. And that's ok. 

Once I got home and had a moment in the silence to really think, one of the first things that struck me was that, despite having had what I can only describe as a life-changing experience, I immediately felt hesitation-even fear, perhaps?- about the idea of sharing much of the experience with others, and especially on social media. "I might make someone angry." "I might offend someone." "What if it starts an argument?" "What if I lose 'friends' because of it?" And, after having all of those thoughts, the next question I asked myself was, "Does it matter?". 

The answer, like most things in life, is complex. Of course it matters. But how much? 

In some ways, this is the way I, and many other women (and southern women, in particular), were raised to be. You are taught to think about others' comfort- their feelings, their needs, things that make them uneasy- and try to avoid anything that might make them uncomfortable. That's what well-mannered, gracious women do, right? And how appropriate that, in a crowd of over half a million people- the vast majority being women- this type of behavior was one of the reasons that everything went so smoothly. At one point, after standing shoulder to shoulder, stomachs pressed to backs, for over 6 hours listening to speakers, things began to become so cramped that even the slightest movement would cause a domino effect of leaning and accidental bumping. The kind of thing that, if it happened at a concert, would cause people to get annoyed, testy or even angry. But there was none of that. Instead, you heard "Excuse me", or "I'm sorry", or "Are you ok?". In a mass of humanity that has been labeled as one of the largest- if not the largest- demonstrations in United States history, not one arrest was made. Not. One. We saw police, but not as many as we expected, because they weren't needed. We saw a few members of the National Guard, but not as many as we expected, because they weren't needed. The police that were there had removed the protective gear they had been wearing during the rioting the day before, because it wasn't needed. As we exited the metro on our way home last night, I thanked a metro employee who was working furiously to pick up debris that had fallen from an overflowing trash can. His reply? "No ma'am. Thank you. We are so thankful for you." Apart from one small, isolated incident, everyone we encountered this weekend- law enforcement workers, restaurant servers, fellow marchers- were nothing but gracious.  So yes, manners matter. Kindness matters. Grace matters. 

The question I am struggling with is where does the line get drawn? When do those of us who try to be gracious and polite decide that our voices matter, too? When do we decide that speaking up for what's right is worth ruffling some feathers? 

Before I went to D.C., I had a few people ask me what I was protesting against. And, not wanting to seem "aggressive", I said that it was more about marching "for" things, rather than protesting "against" things. And, for the most part, that is absolutely true. I am for tolerance. I am for equal pay for equal work. I am for the freedom to make personal healthcare decisions. I am for freedom of religion. I am for freedom of the press. I am for science, quality public education, marriage equality.  I am for common sense gun reform. I am for policies that protect our environment. 

For reasons I'm not sure I completely understand, saying that you are "for" certain things seems better than saying that you are against things. It just seems more polite. 

But, if I'm being honest, I AM against certain things. I just am. 

I am against rhetoric that inspires fear of those who look different, speak different languages, and practice different religions. I am against rhetoric that incites violence against immigrants. I am against the idea that, simply by being a white, native-born American, I am somehow better than someone else who is not. I am against the promotion of policies that give white supremacists reason to celebrate. I am against those things. 

I am against the idea that a woman should be paid less than her male counterparts. I am against the belief that it is acceptable to touch a woman without her permission. I am against the notion that an organization that provides access to a multitude of essential healthcare services should be defunded. I am against those who mock the disabled. I am against the belief that scientific facts about climate change are actually just opinions. I am against those things. 

I am against the appointment of a Secretary of Education who is unaware of IDEA and who is incapable of distinguishing the difference between growth and proficiency. I am against the appointment of an Attorney General who has worked tirelessly to oppress people of color. I am against the appointment of Supreme Court justices who do not believe that "liberty and justice for all" truly does mean ALL. I am against those things. 

If you sit to the right of center, then chances are we disagree on at least a handful of things. And that's perfectly ok. And if you have ideas that you think I should hear, even better. If you have ideas about how to ensure that everyone has access to affordable healthcare, while also optimizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness, I'm all ears. If you have suggestions about how to ensure that all of our children have access to the very best public education possible, lay it on me. If you have thoughts on some things that you think I could look at from a different angle, please tell me. I will listen with the intention of hearing and with the hope of understanding. I am hopeful that, through these discussions, we can all begin to discover our commonalities. 

But I have come to accept that there are some things that I will just never be for. There are some things that I will always be against- because I was raised that some things aren't a matter of politics- some things are simply a matter of human decency. And that's not an "alternative fact". That's just the truth.

And as a dear friend pointed out today, participating in the Women's March on Washington is not simply a venue for marching against our president. It is not an act meant to signify that I don't accept him as my country's commander in chief. I must. And I do. It is a fact. But it is also a fact that I have a voice. And it is a fact that my voice matters. So I will use that voice to speak both for and against things. Because not only is it my right- it is my duty.  

If I am against some things that you are for, or I am for some things that you are against, I hope that, ultimately, it is because we both want the very best for everyone, and we just have different ideas about how to get there. I will pray that my president truly does want to be a president for all people, and that he is successful in his pursuit of that goal- because if he fails, we all do. 

But, I will also continue to speak against policies I believe to be unjust and against statements that I know to be false, even if it means that it makes me, or someone else, uncomfortable. Because discomfort is often the compass toward growth, and growth is something I am for. 

Yesterday, I was one of approximately half a million people in our nation's capitol, and one of millions of people across all seven continents, who were all on a mission together. It was truly one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of, and I am so happy to be able to tell my daughter that I was there. I am so happy to be able to tell her that millions of people marched for those things which are just and against those things which are unjust. Because she deserves it. We all do. 

 

#whyimarch #womensmarchonwashington #greenvillegoestowashington #squadthree

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