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To March or Not to March

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written by Audrey McClish

In January of 2017, I joined my mom, cousins, and a couple of friends to do a “march”. I had never done this “marching” thing before, and I had little understanding of why I was marching at all. I knew we were mad at the sudden sanction of misogynistic, racist, hypocritical and altogether hurtful rhetoric. We felt betrayed by “democracy”- the word we all so proudly promote across dinner table discussions. And most of all we felt fear for the unknown. I remember weighing just how fast hard-fought equalities could reasonably diminish in four years.

Yet, how could “marching” solve such things? I understood marches only as a source of solace for whopping crowds of the politically like-minded, who felt marginalized and shared concerns. “Marching” seemed to be merely an attractive facade for a safe place where people are reassured that they are not alone in their unhappiness.

Then we arrived, and my unhappy-yet-complacent state of mind was consumed, convulsed, and spit out by a massive snowstorm of angry chants, “pink-hats”, inspiring stories, and heartfelt speeches. The unhappiness was shaken out of me, and with it the complacency; I was left with a weird sort of excitement- the sort of excitement I imagine one might feel after being spit out of a snowstorm and realizing how blessed they are to be alive- accompanied by the somewhat frightening realization that they should probably do something extraordinarily meaningful with their life. Thus, I decided to be complacent no more.

However, I returned home and awoke the next day to the same country, the same demeaning rhetoric, and the same subconscious fear that I might have to look into colleges in Canada. I learned that marching through the streets, however internally life-changing it may be, rarely achieves tangible progress (or at least progress in the sense that I understood it), and it felt like waking up to a puddle of cold drool. How was I supposed to be non-complacent if the structure of government, society, and my age required of me complacency?

Three years later, though I still grapple with this question on a daily basis, I believe there are very tangible things that happen when one marches. For one, when I march I feel connected with the community, and I learn from fellow marchers. I am reminded that everyone has their own reason for marching- everyone has their own story. Therefore we are not marching to reinforce our own beliefs, but rather to learn each other’s stories so we can better understand and make informed decisions.

Secondly, when I march I can make myself known and share my own story. I can empower myself by contributing to something larger, and I can assert my 17-year-old perspective into the world of important adult decisions. When I march I am not hiding behind the internet or some angry blog, but step by step, I am showing the world that I care. Lastly, when I march, I am reminded that I have power, and when I am consumed by a mass of marchers, I am reminded by the words of Women’s March SLO founder Dawn Addis, that “no one has more power than me.”

Whether you are considering attending the upcoming Women’s March on Saturday or thinking about attending a march in the future, consider not what change can come of it, but what opportunity it may provide for you to create change. This year WMSLO is hosting its third annual march, entitled “Truth To Power”. As Founder Dawn Addis explains, this year is for people and communities to “continue speaking their truth” To learn more visit: https://womensmarchslo.com/truth-to-power/ 

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