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Women’s Marches Around the World: A Reaction, and How It Relates to Our Community

In the same spot where Civil Rights movements protesters marched, where students rallied to end the Vietnam war, where the first African American president was sworn in, where in the previous day Donald Trump declared he would Make America Great Again, an estimated 750,000 people gathered for the Women’s March on Washington– inspiring similar demonstrations with record-breaking turnouts around the world. Ex-evangelical Christians toting “Submit to Your Husbands as You Would Submit to Jesus” and “Abortion is Murder” signs, these self-described “nasty women” and their families, from groups of older women to young teenage girls, marched clad in pink pussyhats, sneakers, and Planned Parenthood scarves, carrying signs with handwritten slogans, painstakingly painted images, and creatively crafted costumes. Chanting “We will not go away/Welcome to your first day” and “Love Trumps Hate” , crowds filled the streets of Washington and cities all over the world, stopping traffic and causing hasty route alterations as march organizers struggled to cope with the unprecedented crowds.

Several Friends Academy students, teachers, and families were among the D.C. marchers, with many more flooding the New York City march. Whether you were marching or not, whether you were in favor of the issues or administration, these demonstrations sent their message loud and clear: much of the world is discontented, anxious, and fearful of the new Trump administration and proposed policies, and this division and anxiety cannot be ignored. Our country cannot go forward much longer in this state of anxiety, party division, and lack of discussion.

As morning turned into afternoon, and as darkness fell, the protest signs which were waved so energetically all day were transferred from tired arms to a demonstrator-created wall that looped around the National Mall and in front of the White House, collaged with signs of all shapes and sizes. These represented reproductive rights, gender equality, black lives matter, environmental concerns, transgender issues, the LGBTQ population, and a multitude of concerns that plague the minds of many apprehensive citizens.

Responses to the D.C. and other marches varied. Some called them a “beautiful mess” and “empowering acts of solidarity,” while others decried them as a gathering of “whining Liberals.” New POTUS Trump tweeted he was “under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” This tweet, coupled with his attack on the media and use of a CIA headquarters visit to air grievances and defend his inauguration crowd size, drew widespread opposition and questions about his future policies and political capabilities.

However, his more conciliatory tweet later stated: “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” While not his usual style, it seemed to convey a willingness to listen, and opened up further questions on the other “hallmarks” of our democracy that he has challenged. These questions and other discussions began to be addressed at an inauguration viewing and lunch-and-learn hosted by the Friends Academy political clubs. With active Republican, Democratic, and Independent Clubs, Friends has a huge variety of political opinions that, especially considering the current political climate, should continue to be fostered in a respectful while honest environment, allowing students to state their opinions and ideas for the most productive future for America.

Whatever you think of Trump, facts are facts. Women make up 53% of the US population and only 19% of Congress. They earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, and Trump and his administration’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood because of beliefs surrounding abortion (which makes up 3% of the organization’s services) would cause many to lose their only source of affordable health care (including tetanus shots, cancer scans, and diabetes/blood pressure screenings). And in record numbers around the world, from the tiny town of Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia to London, Melbourne, New York City, and Washington D.C., women, men, and children made it clear that they were fed up with double standards, and unwilling to go backwards.

What does the Friends Academy community think? How can we further come together to discuss these issues and encourage students to act to make changes, no matter what political party they are affiliated with? The question remains, both for the protestors, and the Friends Academy community: What can we do to unite our community, and our nation, while standing up for our beliefs? How can we create a country where everyone feels respected, safe, and like they belong? What will Donald Trump and his administration’s responses be to these protests, and which of their proposed policies will they act on? What will this lead to?

Although this election caused many conflicts, polarizing parties, families, and students all over the world, Donald Trump is officially president of the United States. And it is our job as a community to come together to discuss these issues, and provide a supportive environment for students and faculty of any political allegiance to respectfully vocalize their concerns, opinions, and ideas for a brighter future for America.

2 Comments

  1. Rachel Hall January 27, 2017

    Thanks so much for this well-written piece. As we advocate for whatever issues feel "true" or "right" to us in this very polarized nation, a question we should be asking on a regular basis is "Do we want to make a statement, or do we want to make progress?"  Lambasting people with negative rhetoric or vague political categories is easy; advocating in positive ways for the issues that matter most to us in a way that allows us to bridge a divide is much more challenging.  As David Brooks observed in his column in February of last year, "Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests or opinions.  You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them."  As he observes, it's an "endless conversation" in which no one gets everything s/he wants.  I hope we get better at having those "endless conversations," filled with pacific disagreements at time.  As Ellie observed so well, "Our country cannot go forward much longer in this state of anxiety, party division, and lack of discussion." 

  2. Ms. Van Auken January 30, 2017

    Brava, Ellie! Well said!  It feels to me like there is too much left unsaid here at Friends.

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