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The atmosphere was one of support, tolerance, common values and even love. I had a perfect stranger say to me, as she was walking away from our shared lunch table after a short conversation about the day, “Love you.” I called after her, “Me too, love you.” It felt that way, like we were family. When I learned that around the world approximately three million people marched without one incident of violence or even disruption (or none that I’ve heard of), I was inspired.
What shocks me most is that for the first time since before the Vietnam War, I feel patriotic. I feel like I want to defend the democracy that I think is truly under siege. I am proud of my system of government and want it preserved. It was always easy to poke holes in our institutions, meaning to critique them, when they seemed solid. But now that we may be dismantling important elements of that system, I want to fight to protect it. It takes a lot to make a flag-waver out of me, but Trump has done it; he has demonstrated how pernicious un-American values are. Yet, despite all the warm, positive and affirming elements of the day, my sadness stemmed from the realization, based on long experience, that it takes a lot more than one, large, feel-good march to affect policy.
Marching showed commitment, but not real courage — not the kind of courage and self-sacrifice I fear will be required to stop the wave of exclusionism that is gaining momentum. People will suffer more than pouring rain before this thing is over. Already, families are split. Many of my friends don’t dare call home or attend dreaded holiday gatherings because some of their relatives supported political figures they find heinous. People will lose their jobs, reputations, freedoms and, I fear, their lives. Magnificent landscapes will be scarred and made uninhabitable for the animals that call them “home.” It’s a dark vision, but it is born of the president’s dark vision for America. The march was a lovely, gentle beginning, but I hope we are up for the long haul.