By Molly Walsh
Against a cloudless, grey sky, scattered waves of knitted pink continued to emerge from street corners the day after the Women’s March on Washington. American flags stood tall in front of national museums and blew gently in the wintry breeze. Signs, stickers, and banners reading, “Climate Change Is Real”, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”, “Equality for All”, and “Love Not Hate” were left placed against park fences, sides of buildings, and on rainy sidewalks. Less than 24 hours prior, more than 500,000 protesters were packed tightly along the streets of Washington D.C.–– chanting, singing, and marching with fervor. Now, the air was calm and streets were open, traffic moving along normally, people making their way back home.
On our last day before flying back to Boston, my mom and I took a taxi around D.C., where we sat discussing and reflecting upon the unparalleled events we had experienced the day before at the protest. My mind was racing with recollection and overwhelming emotion as we drove down the streets we had just marched down. Sitting there in the back of the cab, after the powerful experience I anticipated for weeks that had abruptly passed, I was left unsure of how to feel moving forward. What was to be done now with such accumulated, concentrated passion for resistance? How had it changed things? How had it changed me?
It was not until our taxi driver commented on his impression of the march, stating “I think it’s great that it was so well attended, but I don’t understand the point of protesting. At the end of the day, Trump is still president and marching won’t change that,” that the true significance of the protest hit me. My articulations came to a boil as I opened up about my experience, disagreeing with the driver and offering him my personal perspective.
For months during Trump’s campaign, I simply sat in my room and watched from afar as not only my political beliefs, but my core personal values were publicly challenged and incessantly opposed. Sure, I was able to have supportive conversations with like-minded friends at school and family members around the dinner table, but my understanding of the country’s ethical standpoint rapidly changed and quickly diminished when Trump was elected. The media and news was constantly reiterating the intense anger, conflict, and judgement that had come to divide the people in America, and as time went on, I felt myself growing more and more distant from the world around me; everything felt flipped upside down. I grew quiet and my spirit grew hopeless.
Never having attended a protest before this march, I truly did not know what to expect when I arrived in D.C.; my hopeless feeling still lingered in the back of my mind. It did not take long, however, for the colorful, diverse crowd to prove my fearful feelings misguided. Marching down the historic Washington streets, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who peacefully, passionately, and unapologetically supported the same core values that I once feared had been lost, I quickly understood the power of protest: as much as it opposed regulation, it also reminded people that amidst societal panic, we are not alone.
I–- along with everyone else around me–- gained unprecedented motivation and pride as our voices came together not to rebel against corrupt politics, but to create awareness of the love, unity, and support that still exists within our society. By the end of the day, even though I knew Trump was still in the White House, my hopelessness turned into confidence; I was reminded that these issues have existed since long before Trump, but people have not and will not stop standing up for what they believe is right. When marching together, we will never grow quiet and our spirits will never grow hopeless.
A week after the march has passed, I still think about that conversation with the taxi driver, because his point that “Trump is still president and marching won’t change that,” is true. But that is not the point of the march. By being brave, going out, and standing behind your beliefs–- even when you lose–- you will find the support to continue moving forward and the optimism that there can be change in the future, which is something we all need to be reminded of.