The Women's March on Washington, and affiliated marches throughout the nation, that took place this past Saturday were huge. Demonstrations took place on every continent on Earth and have been argued to be the biggest collection of protests in world history. I even saw on the social media this morning that a pair of political scientists had used crowd-size estimates to argue that roughly 1-2% of the entire US population was at a protest of some sort that day.
So needless to say, it was a pretty popular demonstration, the kind we haven't seen since the dawn of the Iraq war (and those demonstrators, it bears constant repetition, were pretty much right about everything).
The incredible popularity of this past weekend's actions put those of us regular demonstrators in an odd position, as we're not used to nearly this much attention nor support. And I have to admit, it's easy to feel like a demonstration hipster (indeed, in creating a back patch to wear to Saturday's rally, I cut up an old demonstration shirt I had made that read "I was against the war before it was cool").
To be fair, this isn't an entirely glib point about something niche suddenly becoming mainstream. As many have pointed out, none of the problems folks were discussing during Saturday's many speeches are new in any way, and while Trump is a terrifying specter indeed, it's not as if the election of Clinton would have made these problems go away. I'll admit that as much joy as I felt witnessing the thousands who were marching along side me and the many millions more marching elsewhere, more than once my mind returned to the speaker at an emergency post-election meeting I mentioned here before who pointed out that had Clinton won, these problems would still be here, but it's pretty unlikely everyone would be organizing emergency meetings and mass demonstrations to address them.
So yeah, there's definitely a sense that many of the people who showed up to the protests this past weekend were only doing so because they felt like all of the problems in the world might now start applying to them. I think the feeling is captured quite eloquently by this sign, which I've seen multiple versions of popping up in various photo collections from Saturday:
It raises a good point about participation, and less directly, about how these demonstrations were policed compared to many others; as more than a few people have pointed out, if there were Black Lives Matter rallies this big all over the nation, it's hard to believe police would be so polite and helpful, or that we would see so few pre-emptive riot police and tanks on the street.
These issues are real and important, and definitely should not be dismissed, but instead form a central part of the discussion on where to go from here.
But as important as these issues are, and as fun as it is to be holier than thou about such things (and it's very fun!), in my ongoing quest to learn some form of humility, I'm going to try my best to remember that everyone starts somewhere. And while people should be held to task for not caring about an issue until it effects them personally, I think it's also important to ask which is more important during these times -- excoriating those who didn't get to the movement soon enough, or building as massive a movement as possible to push back against the Trump agenda and toward social justice?
So in that vein, I'm going to do my best to try and welcome people to the resistance. Even if they didn't get here on time or in the right way, they got here, and it's a lot more important where they go from here than where they've been before. Because simply put, we need them. As ol' Leon Trotsky put it, "Without a guiding
organization the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not
enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the
piston or the box, but the steam."
Or for a bit more contemporary spin on that same though, I'll let Dr. Angela Davis have the final word: