This article, written by Erika Koch, appears in the Winter 2017 edition of The Beacon.
Seven airplanes, four hotel rooms, and not quite seven days. That’s what it took for me to travel to and from my usual winter conference—leaving it a day early—and arrive in Washington, DC for the Women’s March, which took place the day after the current American President’s inauguration. I had felt ashamed to be American after the election, and despite the fact that I voted in the election (as is my right as an American citizen), I felt powerless. So, when my sister-in-law invited me to march with her, I felt both thrilled an honored. As I said to her at the time of her invitation, I think I’ve always wanted to be part of a march on Washington. When I lived in Maryland for three years before arriving at St. FX, I played tourist in DC a few times a year and always enjoyed soaking up the city’s history. I was excited to return to the city and be a part of a new history.
People have asked me why I marched. I could fill a great deal of space answering that question, but I will try to be brief. Selfishly, I wanted to dampen my own sense of powerlessness, but, less selfishly, I wanted to remind the world that most Americans who voted did not vote for the current President. I wanted to show the new administration that women are not going to be silent when confronted with misogyny. I wanted to remind myself that not everyone is going to passively accept the new administration’s whims, especially those that threaten women’s rights.
I will always remember the day fondly: the sense of excitement as I saw women in pink knit hits at breakfast, the hour+ Metro ride (with a crowd size that reminded my sister-in-law of Tokyo), the women with whom I chatted and laughed on the Metro, the funny and poignant signs at the March, the chants, the speeches (especially by 6-year-old Sophie Cruz: click here to be inspired), and the sea of people that spilled on to the streets of DC. I heard on the Metro ride back that local stores actually ran out of posterboard, which explained the creativity of media on which some of the signs were written; I think that I even saw one on written on the back of a hot water tank box. One of the early signs I saw was a hand-written “MOMMA’S BOY,” proudly held by a young man. The number of men—and children—at the March was truly moving. I recall the flak that the initial March organizers received—understandably—about being overly white. The diversity of speakers and marchers suggested that those initial squabbles were long gone.
One thing that struck me was the completely positive vibe that permeated the day. On the lengthy Metro rides, no one complained. When two young men wearing Trump hats hopped on the Metro, no one harassed them. I saw no counter-protests, no violence, surprisingly little (obvious) security… The peace of the day truly was remarkable.
For a few hours, some of my shame at being American was lifted, replaced by an unusual sense of pride.
But I still mailed my Canadian citizenship application yesterday.