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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What I Learned At My First Protest

As I watched the election results roll in on November 8th, my emotions went from optimistic, to hopeful, to completely speechless and horrified. A thick sense of dread came over me when it was announced Donald Trump was officially our new President-elect. It felt like I was drowning. I cried as I watched Hillary's supporters stream out of the NYC Javits Center, glass ceiling still intact. I hardly slept that night. I felt like I was watching the death of the America I love. I woke up the next morning blearly eyed and hoping I had just had a nightmare. That I would wake up and everything would be normal again. But that wasn't the case. My fears about this inexperienced man who had done nothing but incite fear, sexism, violence and hatred came crashing at me like a ton of bricks. I felt physically ill. George Washington once wrote in a letter, "May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under own his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Donald Trump and his followers had already succeeded at doing just the opposite of that. Making Americans fear and hate each other. 
When I heard about the first anti Trump protest being held in NYC the day after the election, I knew I had to be there. I ripped up a cardboard box that was lying around and hastily made a sign. It said "Love Trumps Hate" on one side and "Not My President" on the other.  I had never been to a protest before & I was the farthest from a "professional protestor" but with everything I love about America at stake and my heart breaking, it was the only thing I could think to do. 
Still decked out in my "i'm with her" pin from the day before, I tied an American flag scarf in my hair and rode the subway to Central Park with my small sign in hand. As I got to the meeting area, it was raining slightly and I could already hear the voices in the distance, chanting their hearts out. I followed the voices until they grew louder and louder. I walked until I was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of like minded people, a sea of faces of every color shouting exactly what I was feeling in my heart. Their brave voices united and rose up as one into the night sky. It was such a beautiful thing to witness. It took my breath away. 
As we began to march through the streets of NYC to Trump Tower with rain falling around us, it felt like the universe was crying too. People stopped what they were doing and came outside on balconies, fire escapes and sidewalks to witness this massive stream of humanity rising up. They cheered along with us, gave us thumbs up, beeped car horns, and applauded. Some even cried. The energy of the crowd was contagious and palpable.  I felt like I was living history. I walked for almost five miles chanting my heart out until I nearly lost my voice. As we approached Trump Tower the march came to a halt. Some silently held signs and many continued the protest chants. The protest that night was extremely peaceful and I saw no violence whatsoever. There was a mutual respect between the police and crowd. The media likes to portray all protests as violent but that was anything but the case.

My first protest gave me hope that the majority of Americans will fight for good over evil and slightly restored the faith in humanity I had lost the night before.  When I headed home that night I was still grieving over the results, but all the yelling had sure as hell made me feel better. I felt proud to have used my first amendment right and freedom of speech to stand up for what I believe in. A freedom that my own father served to protect in the military. I am aware that change doesn't happen from a single protest, but it also doesn't happen when you sit on the couch and attempt to normalize an incredibly screwed up situation. Donald Trump's America is not great. It is already giving hate, Antisemitism, bigotry and racism a stronger voice than ever. 
Change starts small. It may take years. America may never be the same, but we will overcome, and I'll continue to use my right to peacefully protest as long as this nightmare continues.

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