On Saturday, Jan. 21, I traveled to Washington, D.C., where I marched in the Women’s March along with one of my daughters, two of my granddaughters, two old friends (fellow authors of “Saving the Best for Last: Creating Our Lives After 50”), and 500,000 of my closest friends.
The march was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was happy to have three generations of my family there together. The night before the march, my 15-year-old granddaughter said she wasn’t sure she wanted to go. She was afraid that there might be violence, or that the purpose was ugliness – simply dislike of the new president. I told her I believed this march was about unity, about the protection for vulnerable groups such as minorities, people with disabilities, gay and lesbian people and women. I believed it was an expression of concern about what this new administration might bring. I told her that I believed it might turn out to be a historic event and that someday she would be proud to say to her grandchildren, “I was there.” She did go, and was uplifted by her experience.
Contrary to what you might have read or seen on TV or social media, the march was characterized by good behavior, kindness, respect for all and amazing good humor. The police loved us, and we loved the police. It is unfortunate that some of the press picked out some foul utterances by one pop star as their coverage of the march.
Here are two examples of the kindness and thoughtfulness that ruled the day. My friend and I, both in our mid-70s, took a break and sat on a low wall for a few minutes. Our backs were killing us from standing for many, many hours. A woman even older than we are sat down next to us, leaned over and said: “Would you like some Aleve?” She seemed like an angelic apparition. Her act was typical of how people were with each other that day.
The second example involved my friend’s daughter’s six-month old baby. The baby did what babies do and needed a diaper change. This was in the middle of a packed sidewalk. Her mom put her down with a protest sign underneath her, then people she didn’t even know gathered in a circle around the mother and baby, protecting them both. Baby was changed with thanks all around.
When one is squished among hundreds of thousands of others, one might expect tempers to flare, harsh words to be spoken. That never happened. The ethic of the day was passion, humor, and friendliness. The funniest sign I saw was “Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted.”
Several of my friends and family who could not make it to D.C. or to one of the local marches, asked me to represent them there. I was saying their names in my head as we marched, no, shuffled, along. Marching was impossible. The parade route was completely filled before many thousands even got out on the street, so the parade route grew to envelop the entire downtown/mall area of D.C. The site of thousands of people with the same purposes in mind moving in concert was awesome.
Friends of mine are still asking, “But why did you march?” My answer is first, that the right to protest and speak out against our government is enshrined in our Constitution. It is a right that needs to be exercised and valued. Second, I have stood for the rights of vulnerable groups, particularly women and children with disabilities, my whole adult life. Why would I stop now? I think my job now, in my 70s, is to be a role model for young people, most particularly my one grandson and six granddaughters. They are learning that it is important to serve, it is important to stand up for what you believe, and it is important to exercise your rights as a citizen of this great country.
So, I marched.
– Jean Peelen