The Braintree, Massachusetts subway station was chaotic. My sister and I and three friends corralled ourselves into a ticket machine line. It was January 20, 2017, and we were headed to the Boston Women’s March for America.
Twenty mintues later, with thousands pouring into subway stations across the city, the MBTA made the call to waive fares for the day. The crowed cheered. Our train quickly filled to standing-room only. At each stop, hundreds waited to board. The mood was joyful.
Another cheer went up as the conductor announced the Park Street stop. Marchers convened on the Boston Common. In the crowd of 200,000, I saw heterosexual grandparents, homosexual parents, disabled people, white men, brown women, muslims, christians, and everything in between. It was a wacky, diverse tribe hell bent on love and solidarity.
Why We Marched
Some critics of the march say we didn’t have a clear agenda. But the lack of a specific agenda was the point. In Boston, the march was a non-partisan, inclusionary exercise in freedom of speech. It served as a signal to Trump that, although we accept his presidency, we are watching – and ready to defend the rights of anyone harmed by his actions.
Other critics say we have nothing to complain about – just look at the injustices and harm inflicted on women under Shari’ah Law in Muslim-majority countries. However, the suffering of women in other countries does not preclude us from making our own country better. More importantly, if we don’t use our right to protest, we may lose it.
Stuck in the Middle With You
Social media participants and tabloid news outlets take sides on every issue. Even the most objective professional media outlets tend to cover opposing views rather than a spectrum. The perception is a country irrevocably divided. However, I suspect most of us are somewhere in the middle, hungry for a voice.
As the wealth of the top 1% has waxed, the power of America’s vast middle class has waned. Conservative media outlets and alt-right trolls would have the public believe that Massachusetts is filled with wealthy elites who look down on middle and working class Trump voters.
While the educated populace of Boston holds ingorance and incuriosity in contempt, we, too, are mostly middle and working class. We, too, believe in an America where hard work leads to a good life, regardless of race, religion, and gender.
Signs of Hope
No doubt some Trump voters, like Richard Spencer, are racist and misogynist. No doubt some believe Trump’s business experience gives him the chops to lead the free world. However, I suspect the majority, feeling betrayed by the political system, see in Trump a way to disrupt the system so that it may improve.
They may be onto something. In the days since Trump’s inauguration, I see a coming together of political opposites.
For example, on his first day in office, Trump signed an order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, a move applauded by liberal icons Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In another example, Representative Evan Jenkins, a Republican from West Virginia, introduced a resolution to preserve the Byrd Admendment of Obamacare. The Byrd Amendment makes it easier for coal miners to receive coverage for black lung treatment. Jenkins opposed Obamacare, but at the prospect of hurting his most vulnerable consitutents with the law’s wholesale repeal, even Jenkins draws a line against the GOP.
And, more recently, Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Bob Corker strongly and publicly spoke out against Trump’s refugee ban.
A Coming Together
Perhaps a Trump presidency will unite our country after all, but not for the reasons Trump would like. Trump’s business practices and lifestyle contradict his vow to represent working and middle class Americans. He is a member of the 1% with a habit of taking criticism personally and exacting revenge accordingly. And, as evidenced by the unnecessary and incompetent implementation of the refugee ban, he has no idea how to govern.
None of this bodes well for Trump’s success. In the face of systemic failure, Americans have a chance to find our center, to coalesce on common ground. Two weeks into Trump’s presidency, the level of civic engagement is unlike anything I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
I truly hope a Trump presidency does not not harm anyone in the working or middle class. But, if it does, we must make our voices heard. We must be engaged citizens.
Speak long enough and loud enough and our elected representatives can’t ignore us.