This week was a difficult one. I fell into a deep funk I just could not seem to escape. I felt homesick, stressed and nervous. I felt the grim, looming prospect of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Of course I did — who didn’t? I am not the first person to describe Trump’s presidency in such apocalyptic terms, and I certainly will not be the last. But on Jan. 21, I felt something different.
I went to the rally in Beinecke Plaza and the march on the New Haven Green. Well-attended events, but nothing close to the scale of the Women’s Marches on Washington and New York and my big, loud hometown of Chicago. I was initially disappointed to have been unable to join a larger march, but I realized that it didn’t matter where I was. As I walked among a scrappy crowd of strangers, I could not stop smiling. Maybe I was imagining things, or maybe I am just a soft-hearted sap, but I felt something like hope every time an enthusiastic driver rolled down their window to give us a thumbs-up or fist pump, every time I looked at little girls marching while holding hands, every time I caught sight of bewildered pedestrians recovering from their confusion to break into grins and snap a photo or cheer us on.
Make no mistake: I do not mean to simplify a massive protest movement into a feel-good moment fitted for easy consumption in the form of 650 words of inspirational fluff. For many people, Trump’s election has been (and should continue to be) a call to arms. He is a man so shockingly lacking in empathy and decency that he has managed to offend virtually every group of people this country contains.
Through his egregious words and deeds, Trump has brought to the forefront of our minds the insidious forces of division that our nation has always harbored. Thus, the Women’s March movement represents the popularization and expansion of the long-standing grievances of so many marginalized groups. Many people, including myself, have finally felt compelled to stand up for something that African-Americans, Muslims, people with disabilities, undocumented immigrants and countless others have been trying to communicate to a larger audience for so long. Multiple groups feel the sting of injustice and inequality, and our country has often been responsible for the institutionalization of those injustices. The Women’s March recognizes this: It is not a single-issue, one-day event, but an intersectional and ongoing movement.
I grasp all of this, but I also realize that mere comprehension is not enough. I know that I have been too comfortable. I have been privileged enough not to bear the burden of oppression. I am ashamed that it took this election to truly convince me of something I thought I already understood: There is so much at stake and so much to fix.
Even in the midst of this urgency, there is room for optimism. Where I worried I would find dismay, strife and pain, I found only solidarity, support and determination. The people I marched with on Jan. 21 were not vicious, vengeful rabble-rousers, but people sincerely united in a peaceful and civilized attempt to make our presence and resistance known.
Women have always had to smile and politely decline the unwanted advances of a boor. After all, nobody wants to listen to an angry, “nasty” woman. I am of course angry, and I don’t think I will ever stop being angry. But if you ask me, Trump can yell and Tweet and bluster all he wants for the next four years. I hope that we will be here the whole time — standing with a steadfast refusal to accept the bigotry and hatred that he and his ilk represent.
I could not stop smiling at the march because I realized that we are here, we are here for each other and we are here to stay. I hate it when men tell women to smile, but now no man is going to be able to tell me to stop.
Lina Kapp is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact her at email@example.com .