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Participants round the corner at Elm Avenue and Jefferson Street as they follow the parade route in the March on Roanoke on January 21.
The Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration developed out of anger, rage and fear. The anger had replaced disbelief the day after the election and reflected the anger persistent throughout the campaign. A woman in Hawaii suggested turning the anger into resistance in the form of a march. Within days, millions of women across the country and around the world agreed either publicly or silently, and showed up either in D.C. or their hometowns.
But something happened on the way to DC. The women and men and children who gathered for that march did not look angry. Except for a little outburst here and there, the mood seemed almost festive. Perhaps it’s just difficult to look and sound angry in a sea of pink.
However, a closer look and a closer listen reveals another explanation: the anger had transformed into determination. The conversations had turned to what to do next. And despite the conflicts that had popped up during the organization, the protesters appeared to have an instinctive trust in each other. On the way home and at breakfast the next morning, they began committing to plans, finding places where their talent and skills best fit. As my friend Lee Godfrey wrote, “I choose to focus on health care for all rather than silly tweets.”
Anger, no doubt, is a renewable source of energy, as reliable as the sun and wind, but it is not sustainable. Almost always, it damages the angry person more than the recipient of the anger, and we literally can become addicted to it. It actually can feel good to be angry.
The Women’s March serves as a model for our path forward over the next four years. We can transform our anger and fear into meaningful work. President Trump is a master distractor, but we do not have to let him have the power to distract us. We can refuse to let ourselves be controlled. He wants to create clutter with his tweets, but we can clean house.
Italy’s Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi, was eventually defeated when the country decided to ignore his larger-than-life personality and focus instead on the core values of the progressive left. Canada chose to rally around the common values of their country, leaving the politics of fear behind with the success of Justin Trudeau. Prime Minister Trudeau’s movement built trusting relationships with people from all walks of life. Lesson learned: Making the tent bigger is not just about a platform of issues, it’s about relationships.
We don’t have to be the president’s knee-jerk puppets. We can stay in control of ourselves, build trust with each other, and support each other in all our struggles. We will almost certainly pick up some unlikely allies on the way, as this offers a smarter resistance.
There will still be anger, maybe daily. The headlines will continue to provoke us. Trump has promised to undo much of Obama’s legacy, and each undoing will hurt. Headlines and tweets are a distraction looking to induce a loss of control. In fact, Trump will merely distract us from the greater unraveling Congress will engage in. We’ll be distracted momentarily, but we must remain determined to heal and repair the wounds from a political environment intent on dividing us. I’ve heard several women describe how there were so many people in D.C. for the march that they couldn’t move. But they did move, and that was only the first day.