Why We March
Since last Tuesday, I’ve been struggling to eat or sleep, and fielding angry, shocked texts from my family and friends across the country. I’m in Beckett mode here, as I’m sure many of us are: I can’t go on. I’ll go on.
Last week’s presidential election sucked for a lot of the people you know, in ways you may not even begin to be able to grasp, particularly if you’re a straight white dude. If you cast a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, I hope you’re happy knowing your symbolic act helped elect Trump, and that women, people of color, and LGBT folks will be paying the price. As I stood in the Convention Center watching a lifelong dream come crashing down in real time—an orange know-nothing charlatan defeating an accomplished civil servant he had no business defeating—I was once again reminded of how much our country hates women and girls, and how that hatred was enabled electorally by the selfish act of protest-voting and insidious left-wing misogyny.
So yeah, it was a shitty night.
It felt as bad as the 2000 and 2004 elections, but worse, because so many of us were anticipating the election of the first woman president, and what we got instead was validation that America’s racism and sexism are alive and well. It was like going downstairs on Christmas morning ready to open presents and instead getting tased by a sexist in a Santa costume. What happened in this election shouldn’t have happened. But even as it did, I remembered the cover of our sister paper, The Stranger, that came out following the 2004 election. It’s a cover (and an accompanying story) that’s stayed with me, because just reading it gave me a great amount of solace during a horrible time. I remember seeing it after I’d spent Election Night crying in a room full of unhappy Democrats downtown at the Westin Seattle hotel while we watched the returns come in. George W. Bush was on his way to winning reelection and the gubernatorial campaign I’d volunteered for was too close to call. It was a night not unlike last Tuesday: Things weren’t looking good for the good guys, and there was nothing we could do but watch.
I grew up in Seattle surrounded by people working in progressive politics. In 2004, I was 17. I couldn’t vote yet but I had spent my summer working on two campaigns, phonebanking and quietly freaking out whenever I saw US Senator Patty Murray in person. The day before the election, I’d been making GOTV calls and waving signs for John Kerry above I-5 in Seattle. I’d had faith in the democratic process, and I was heartbroken when it failed us.
The morning after, I woke up feeling deeply sad to be an American, and would be until I read the text on that cover: “Do not despair. You don’t have to leave. You don’t have to move to Canada. You may feel out of place in the United States today. You may feel like you’re surrounded by fundamentalist-church-going, gun-hugging, gay-bashing, anti-choice Bush voters. But you’re not. George W. Bush only got 51 percent of the national vote. And you don’t really live out there somewhere in ‘the nation,’ do you? You live in the city. A big city. And John Kerry got 61 percent of the urban vote. The bigger the city, the higher Kerry’s percentage. John Kerry got 80 percent of the vote in Seattle. Cities vote Democratic. Cities are the economic engines that power this country. Cities are diverse, dynamic, and progressive. Don’t think of yourself as citizen of the United States. You are a citizen of the urban archipelago. The United Cities of America.”
Reading this made me realize the US was still my country, because Seattle was still my city, and Washington was still my state.
2016 is not 2004. George W. Bush didn’t even vote for Donald Trump. The threats we’re facing—to reproductive rights, to immigrants, to people of color, to the LGBT community and the makeup of the Supreme Court—are real, and they are immense. Trump is poised to do incalculable damage to our country and our democracy.
We are dealing with a more difficult road than we planned for. So hug your friends, drink your drinks, and do whatever you need to do to get through the next few weeks. Take care of each other.
But when you feel despair coming on, I hope you’ll remember that you live in Oregon. You live in the state that last week officially elected the nation’s first openly LGBT governor. You live in a state that values reproductive rights. You live in a state with marriage equality and legal weed. And you live in a country where the majority of voters cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, where she won the popular vote, where she said in her concession speech, “To the little girls who are watching, never doubt that you are valuable... and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams.”
We can’t go on. We’ll go on.
Do not despair.