I haven't written anything here in a very, very long time. But today I feel compelled to talk about all my friends, those marching and those denouncing marching.
I don't know if this is unusual as it feels, but my friends are almost equally divided politically. Almost everyone I went to LSMSA and college with (at least those whose FB posts I haven't unfollowed) and all the friends I've made through knitting and Jay, and all my friends who live anywhere else in the world fall somewhere left of center. And most of the people with whom I work and worship and watch my kids play sports on a daily basis, and the people whose businesses I frequent and those who frequent mine, fall to the right. And I love and admire many people who disagree with me about politics. I know them to be kind, generous, wise and loving people. They want the best for our country, but they may not agree with me about the best ways to go about it.
And I have lots of feelings about how both sides have acted, things they've said, memes and articles and photos they've shared for what feels like forever. There have been some bad winners and some bad losers. And I've struggled with how much to share about how I feel on social media for lots of reasons. I have doubts about how much we can change each other's minds. I think we sometimes bring about the opposite results than the ones we intend when we continue to speak in strident tones and tune out everything those who disagree with us say before we even hear it. But something about today has forced me to try.
So today my FB feed is split right down the middle. Half of my friends are wearing pink hats and holding signs and marching. And half of my friends are accusing those men and women of acting out of hate and comparing them to children and calling them sore losers. In both these groups are many real friends of mine. Not just FB friends, but friends from here where I live who visited me and comforted me after each of my parents' and my brothers' deaths. Friends who pick up my kids when I need them to and helped me move, and cared for me while I was recovering from surgery, and do all sorts of things that show what good hearts they have. And friends not from around here with whom I have traveled and lived at other points in my life. One friend from each side of the debate who traveled from out of state to help take care of me after surgery. Friends who made a blanket for Jay while he was sick. Friends who helped me pack his house and sell his house. Real friends. I love you all. I know you are more than the worst things you think about each other. And while some my hat wearing sisters and their ilk have been responsible for calling my conservative friends many names and painting them all with the same brush, and while I should probably spend some time telling you why I know those names to be unfair and untrue, today I have to try to tell my more conservative friends why I am certain my marching friends are NOT acting out of hate, but SO. MUCH. LOVE. I may not be able to make you agree with them, but I have to tell you why I'm so proud of them, and I have to trust that if you care about my opinion enough to be reading this, then maybe there's a chance I can help you see them differently.
I can't speak for everyone who marched, of course. I can't even speak for all the ones I know. I didn't march, but if I had, here are the reasons I would have.
- Protesting peacefully is not the same as whining, complaining, being a sore loser, not coming together, and not just getting over it already. In my opinion, it is the exact opposite of those things. Our country was formed at least partially as a result of colonists protesting rules that they did not think were just. Important changes throughout our country's history have been brought about by protesting, and most of the time the protests have been unpopular. Think about it-if everyone all agreed about the need for change, there wouldn't be any need for a protest. Everyone would just hold hands and sing and treat everyone fairly and justly. Things that appear obvious to us now because we have lived with them and know them to be fair and right and just were once crazy outlandish ideas that were offensive to people who liked the status quo. I took my sons to see Hidden Figures, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and it illustrated that beautifully. My mother told me that protesting things that were wrong was THE MORAL OBLIGATION OF AN INFORMED SOCIETY, and that it was a form of patriotism and part of what kept us free from tyranny. Now, you may not think that you agree that these marches were necessary. You may not agree with these men's and women's concerns. But is there anything you do feel strongly enough to protest? Would you march against abortion? For veterans? For some other moral principal? If so, can you see that even if you don't agree with the marchers, they are using a peaceful means of persuasion to stand up and be on record for what they believe? Can you respect that? If had marched today, it would be because I think it is my moral obligation to hold our government accountable for its actions and because I love our country too much to be silent if I think we are off track.
- I believe that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. You might not agree with me about what those rights are. But I believe that America is still a threatening place for some people. I realize that might not fit with your experience, and you might not believe it. But I believe it. So if I had marched today, it would be because I wanted to show all Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion, disability, gender-identity, sexual orientation, or anything else I've forgotten to mention, that I love them and I intend to stand up with them when I see their rights threatened, as I believe this president has threatened to do.
- I do not want my children, of either gender, to think that it is ok for men to speak to or about women the way that Donald Trump does. My newsfeed has been full today of women who think things are great, we have achieved all the equality we could possibly want, and if we haven't it's because we are whiners who want to be heard and refuse to listen. Now, friends of mine, you are not being honest here. I know that you have heard President Trump tell women that they would look good on their knees, and I know that you have heard him say that he liked to grab women by their genitalia, and that when you were famous, girls let you do that. I don't know how you told yourself that was ok, or that it wasn't an indication of a lack of respect for women. Maybe when you weighed it against other concerns, it wasn't important enough to you not to vote for him, but I hope it gave you pause. I don't think any of my friends would want their sons or daughters to speak or be spoken to that way. If had marched today, it would be to indicate that I love my sons and my daughter too much to let that kind of talk pass by without commentary.
- I believe that all Americans deserve affordable quality healthcare. As a business owner, I know that the ACA wasn't perfect. And goodness knows, we don't like being told what we HAVE to do. But I think that many Americans have come to take some parts of it for granted during the last 8 years and don't realize that all Americans could lose significant protections when it is repealed. Among the protections provided by the ACA, which apply to all Americans, regardless of where they get their insurance are: the right to keep your adult children on your insurance policy until age 26, the right to have coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions, and the elimination of lifetime maximums. If you or your child has a pre-existing condition, and that provision is repealed, you or your spouse may not be able to change jobs in the future, because the new insurance company could deny coverage for any expenses related to that condition. That was the rule before ACA. Also, insurance companies could impose lifetime maximum expenditures. So if you are a person with a chronic condition or a person who has survived an expensive disease like cancer, at some point in your life, your insurance company might have the right to say, "Sorry, we have spent all we are going to spend on you. Good luck with that." Again, I'm not making this up. These provisions were outlawed by Obamacare. So if I had marched today, it would be to say that I loved the fact that our country had taken steps to offer these protections to all Americans, and that I am going to be watching and letting my senators and representatives know that I expect those protections to remain in place when the new replacement plan is available.
- I have lost about half the elections I have voted in, and I bet you have too. So I understand that some of you think when your party loses, you just get on with it and accept it and wait until your next opportunity to vote comes along. If I were marching, it wouldn't be because I don't agree with President Trump's political platform. (I don't). It would be because I fear for the state of our democracy under his presidency. I know I will lose some of you here. You'll say I'm an alarmist, that lots of people thought the world would end under Obama and it didn't, that one man can't do that much damage to our country, and that I should just give him a chance. Here are a few of the reasons I am afraid. Trump's nominee for the position of Attorney General would not confirm that he would adhere to laws already in place to prevent the jailing of members of the press doing their jobs. Trump has threatened to blacklist media outlets who report unflattering stories about him. He denies things that are provably true and insists on things that are provably false. It is possible that he conspired with a foreign nation to affect the outcome of the election. His cabinet nominees are being rushed through confirmation hearings without filing their financial disclosure papers or completing ethics reviews. That is very unusual. These reviews usually take place before the hearings, according to a quote from Walter Shaub, the director of the Independent Office of Government Ethics. And some of them are shockingly un-knowledgable about their potential posts. Betsy DeVoss didn't seem to even care enough to prepare for her hearing. She did not understand the difference between basic forms of testing measurements, and she said that she felt it was best left up to the states to decide whether or not to require schools to comply with the federally mandated Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Now I know all of us know someone who has a child that relies to one extent or another to the protections in that act. Can you imagine if a state could just decide that was too expensive and they'd just not do it? Of course, I don't think the courts would allow that, but I'm not nearly as confident in that balance of power among the three branches of our government as I used to be. DeVoss has reportedly contributed to the campaigns of 11 of the 13 Republican members of the committee charged with confirming her. And Trump has not done enough to divest himself of his many potential conflicts of interest. He refuses to show his tax returns, and according to an article in the New Yorker, as of January 13, President Trump had refused to discuss ethics with Shaub. Again, this is an independent office of ethics, and refusal to address conflicts of interests should not be optional. It frightens me that these behaviors are being overlooked and normalized. If you don't agree with me about this, nothing I can tell you will convince you, and most likely nothing you can tell me will convince me that I don't have reason to fear. I pray that I am wrong, and that President Trump is a successful president. I don't want to be able to say I told you so. But if I'm right, and there is some validity to my fears, then if I had marched today, it would be to show President Trump that I'm watching and noting this behavior and that I'm going to do everything I can to prevent him from abusing his power, because that is both my right and my responsibility as an American citizen.
Apparently, some people believe that exercising one's rights to peacefully assemble is inherently disrespectful. If you think that, then I guess nothing I can say will make you feel differently about my friends for marching. I think of it as using one of the tools that we are given in a democracy to try to right wrongs when we see them. Like I said, I was taught that it was patriotic to question your government when you thought it was wrong. But maybe you were taught the opposite, so we will have trouble understanding each other. Maybe marching is not for you, and maybe you don't agree with any of the concerns I listed or the way I expressed myself. I hope we can still be friends. My greatest hope is that I helped someone understand a point of view they didn't before, but honestly I don't even know if that's possible in this climate. I do feel every one of these concerns strongly along with many others. And I feel even worse when I read things from my friends on both sides of this debate that make me doubt that we even want to understand each other or find common ground. I feel like I am a kid whose parents are getting divorced and don't realize that when they say bad things about one group of people I love and respect, it makes me feel bad about myself because I identify with those people. Today I did not march, but I did tell myself that in addition to trying to fight policies and abuses of power when I encounter them, when I feel hopeless about the way things are unfolding, or depressed and anxious about how they might unfold, I will try to do something positive with that emotion. There are lots of people I know who are suffering in one way or another, so maybe I can send them a text, or send up a quick prayer for them. Maybe I can make a donation to a charity. Today I wrote this to try to humanize a group of women whom I admire and respect to another group of people I admire and respect for a whole different set of reasons. Thanks for hanging in there with me.