FIGHTING #INAUGURATION BLUES

womensmarch1It’s been a rough couple of months, but yesterday I felt hope for our country for the first time since November 8. I marched with more than 14,000 others in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

I borrowed an idea from my cousin who attended the Women’s March in Washington. She wore the pink hats and attached hundreds of ribbons to the top of it, each one containing the name of a woman she was representing at the march. My great-grandmother and grandmother were there. I was there, too.

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My cousin’s hat

She inspired me to do something as well, including marching where I could in the town where I lived. I took an index card and wrote down the names of all the important women in my life, past and present, who I wanted to come along with me. I taped the card to the back of my sign, so as I marched I looked at their names. It gave me courage and a sense of purpose.

womensmarch3The weather loomed as a threat yesterday morning. Thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes–scary stuff. I drove to the location in Railroad Square, expecting only a couple of hundred people to come out. Instead, I saw thousands of all ages and colors. My husband didn’t think he’d be welcome at a “women’s march,” so he stayed home despite my cajoling and telling him that we needed men to be there. He wouldn’t have stood out–maybe a third of the crowd were men. Umbrellas clashing, signs soaking, and thunder providing the background drum beat, we began to move slowly. A group of college-aged African-Americans joined and stepped into place in front of me. Both male and female marchers, carrying signs. One of the young men’s sign said, “Stop the Rape Culture.” I smiled broadly at what was happening.

I estimated 10,000 marchers. When I was a reporter, I was trained how to count crowds in meetings halls and auditoriums, but I had no way to estimate these numbers. But I knew it had to be in thousands. The paper reported this morning that the Tallahassee police said more than 14,000 people participated.

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The Tallahassee March

 

I posted my photo on Facebook. After I came home and dried off, I looked at my feed on Facebook and saw my friends’ posts from around Florida and the country: Gainesville, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tucson, Atlanta, Washington.

We will not be defeated on any of the issues so important to the heart of the United States and its government. Criticisms included the name of the marches. That might be valid–my husband a case in point–but when the organizers began making decisions that seemed to be the best title. I don’t think anyone knew what would happen. People were given a chance to publicly participate in democracy and voice their concerns and fears. No one knew the numbers that would attend. Or the issues it would bring out, which was another criticism I’ve heard in the last twenty-four hours. Disorganized, no core issues to work around, the pundits said. Who cares? People came out. Millions across the world. They did it peacefully. I saw no anger amongst the crowd where I marched. Only anger at what could happen and what did happen on November 8.

As I marched next to a woman perhaps two decades older than me using her cane to walk up the hill, I cried. How far we’ve come in her lifetime, only to be shot back down in the swift and fatal tweets of the man now occupying the Oval Office. I looked at the names of the women on my card and felt a lump in my throat.

I did it for you, Emilene Stephens Hooper, who had two children out of wedlock back in Cornwall in the 1890s, yet went on to marry and became a pillar of her community. She ran a boarding house with her two young sons–one of whom was my grandfather–when she met Fred Hooper, who married her and raised her sons and their other children. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1900. So, yes, I’m an immigrant, too, I suppose.

I did it for you, Anna Mary Sweet Camburn, who was in her forties when women gained the right to vote. I did it for you, Ethel DeFord Stephens, who had given birth to seven children by the time women could vote.

And I did it for you, Anna Christina Camburn Behnke, who I brought into this world and raised to be a feminist. You will be a fighter all your life against bigotry, prejudices, and injustice, whether through your actions, words, or paintings.

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With Anna at her art show with her spider lady painting

 

I feel hopeful this morning despite the rain still pounding outside. The heavens are crying as some of us have been doing for the past few months. Those tears will nourish and feed the ground, just as ours inspired and pushed us out the door and into the streets to voice our love of democracy and rights afforded us thus far.

We must keep up the good work.

What happened in your town? I’d love to hear about it!

FIGHT THE FEAR WITH KINDNESS

IMG_0671I’m starting to pull out of the worst hangover of my life. It didn’t come from alcohol. It came from my recent addiction to the news and the results of the 2016 Election. Since last Tuesday night, I stopped watching television. Yesterday, I finally forced myself to listen to NPR and to read the newspaper. But that’s it. I can’t listen to George, Anderson, Lester, or Scott say one more word. I feel betrayed, and I’m in deep mourning.

I know I have to pull myself out of this funk, but it’s difficult. The person who will soon be president of my country does not represent me. And I hate that feeling. Even when my candidates lost (or had the election stolen) in the past, I still felt respect for the highest elected office in my country. Why can’t I do it this time?

Because whenever I try to wrap my head around it, I hear the words–the hurtful, full of rocks and stones words–hurtled by the man who will soon occupy the Oval Office. I hear him referring to “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” “the Muslims” without any recognition of why that is such divisive and fearful rhetoric. I implore others never to lump me in the category of “the whites” because that means you’ve just lumped me with Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, and David Dukes. No, thank you very much. Do not judge me by the color of skin I share with such deplorables.

Those who supported the candidacy of the president-elect tell the rest of us to get over it. I’ve heard them say they didn’t do this when Barrack Obama was elected in 2008 and 2012. No? First, did President Obama ever threaten to deport them? Did he ever call them rapists and murderers? Did he ever implore them to turn in their neighbors or risk punishment themselves? Did he ever threaten to take away their rights? Did he ever threaten to take away their health insurance? Did he ever suggest he would date his daughter? And did he ever indicate that sexually aggressive behavior was the privilege of the famous?

I argue they did protest by blocking the President’s attempts to appoint a Supreme Court justice and to strengthen our gun laws, just to mention a few ways the other side protested.

Fear rules now that a man who has declared that sexual harassment in the workplace can be avoided by a woman simply leaving a job where she feels it’s occurring, who wants to abolish health care for millions who can’t afford it otherwise or who have preexisting conditions (although he may be softening on that), and who has a vice-president eager to do away the any rights gained for our LGBT community. Fear reigns in the lives of anyone who is an immigrant.

Yesterday, I saw it displayed at the post office. A young woman from China was behind me in line. She spoke broken English when she asked me some questions about mailing her package. Before I was called to the window for my business, I tried my best to advise her. She went to the clerk right next to me. He didn’t understand her English and was becoming annoyed with her. She turned to me, and what I saw in her eyes devastated me. She was afraid. Fear poured out of her, and she looked to me to help her. I told the clerk I’d take care of it, and he immediately called the next person in line, eager to be rid of the problem. I pulled her over to a counter and went through what she wanted to do and told her what to say to the clerk when she spoke to him again. She smiled and thanked me profusely as she touched my shoulder.

I walked away feeling better. I’ve been listening to those who say we must go on living our lives with more kindness to counterbalance the hatred running rampant in this country right now. It worked for me because for the rest of the day, I felt as if the hangover that had been hanging over my head for a week, lifted.

I’ve blocked and unfriended several folks on Facebook this past week. When a twenty-something relative who only works sporadically and then sponges off other relatives and the government while she finds herself told those of us who didn’t like the election results to leave the country, I blocked her posts from my newsfeed. When a friend from high school posted that anyone who voted for Hillary was insane, I unfriended him. And when another relative posted about her grief and was attacked by another relative for that grief, I cried.

We have the results. This is the reality. If we’re happy about last Tuesday’s election or if we’re struggling with accepting the results, let’s all vow to be kinder. Let’s fight the fear and hatred with love and compassion for all people. It’s going to be difficult some days. Fighting the bullies who have been given permission to act like bullies in public will take stamina, especially when the president-elect doesn’t recognize that he threw this coming-out party for jerks. Hope is difficult to keep when I hear him asked if he thinks his rhetoric went too far in the election process, and he answers, “No because I won.”

But I’m working on it, one day at a time, one act at a time, one person at a time.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama have set our bars very high for graciousness in a time of despair for many of us. Let’s reach their bars and go beyond.

And then pray.

Florida Setting 2