We rounded the corner and looked down the street and the end of the block was lit up, shining through the canyon of the tall dark skyscrapers, an entrance to the world, the end of a long dark tunnel. The trains rumbled overhead, like a huge barrel rolling down a flight of metal stairs, over and over, around and around.
“Hold up your sign,” I told Kick, and she lifted the sign she had colored the day before, her almost-three-year-old finger-stubs making blue marker strokes and polka dots on a poster board that said, “Future President.”
People honked. People cheered. Mr. A lifted her up in his arms and she waved her sign at the office buildings around her, likely empty. “They can see it too!” she said.
We got to the Chicago Women’s March shortly after 9, and couldn’t get anywhere near the stage, or the park. Organizers had predicted 40,000 based on some Facebook RSVPs and I’d personally knocked that down to 20K, knowing how few Facebook activists actually show up to stuff. But the weather was beautiful, and people were righteously pissed off, and by the time all was said and done we had turned out 250,000 and I think Kick high-fived at least a third of them herself.
Favorite signs included A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE REVOLUTION, I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest This Shit, and pretty much every iteration of “pussy” you can imagine. There was a giant papier-maché vagina parading around. Someone put a pink-eared hat on a cop. Everyone behaved themselves. It was daylight and we were on the fringes of the crowd.
Our sign, colored by a dear friend who came out to us last year after marriage equality was legalized in all 50 states, said “Love Wins.” A homeless guy started arguing with me about it and at first I thought he was a heckler.
“Love don’t win this time, baby.”
“Oh yes, it will.”
Mr. A stuck some change in his rattling Dunkin’ cup. The fellow shook his head.
“I’m not so sure. He’s a cheap, mean motherfucker.”
He is a cheap, mean motherfucker, our president. By the time we got back to our car, stashed in a side-street parking garage, the cheap, mean motherfucker had picked a fight over the size of his inauguration crowds and was whining about his bad press to the CIA. John Brennan, a man whose soul is a pile of rusty nails, went on the record saying he was grossed out by this scumbag. Trump’s first press briefing was a slow-motion demonstration of what happens to the body when you fall on your keys.
There was a certain amount of discussion in the days immediately preceding the marches that the marches were not good enough, and therefore not good at all, and therefore Look At Me I Am Better Than You People Marching. And I will yell all day long about a feminist-industrial complex that cares more about rich women working than all women eating. I have been yelling about that for years, like shut up with your TED talks, and it is exhausting. I will yell at you all day long about that still. Tomorrow.
Today, I will say this. The groups that spoke from platforms in DC and New York and LA and Chicago and a thousand other places were, by and large, those that have been fighting for the rights of working people for decades now. Turning your fire on them, or on anybody who just got woke, may feel virtuous in the moment but we need every ally we can get. Even the idiots who should have been on the job decades ago.
If all somebody did was wear a safety pin in the weeks after the Worst Election Ever, and that was more than they’d done the day before, telling them their safety pin was stupid is not going to make them better. If all somebody did was march on Saturday, telling them their marching was worthless doesn’t keep them in the street.
I am mad as hell that this many people sat out the protests against the Iraq War and sat out the 2004 election and hell, sat out the 2016 election for all I know, probably some of them. I am mad as hell they weren’t all calling their senators during the FISA debates the first time around.
I am mad as hell we don’t see this kind of action and reaction every election day, and I am mad in advance at the way this will be attacked, minimized, characterized as sore-loserdom, and tarred with the actions of whatever five “anarchist” assholes are at every single event that has nothing to do with them.
But I’m not going to waste my anger on the people in the streets with me today. The people who said, with their signs and their presence, that there are many of us and we are fighting back.
The people who told my daughter, “I’d vote for you!”