Last Saturday, there was another rally.
In the past two years, there have been a lot of them. America seems to have reached a breaking point since the electoral college declared Donald Trump as president, and Americans have been embracing a long history of public displays of displeasure.
We’ve marched to show we do not, in fact, want our pussies to be grabbed.
We’ve marched to show that even though Trump’s EPA might be doing its best to erase climate change, we still believe in science.
We’ve marched to show that we don’t think the wealthiest among us deserve a unilateral tax cut.
We’ve marched in a show of solidarity with teenagers who just want to get an education without the threat of school shootings.
And now, we’ve marched to show that we do not support the immigration policies currently being enforced along our southern border. We’ve marched because we believe families should be kept together, regardless of whether they’ve entered our country legally or not.
My social media news feed this week has been inspiring and uplifting. Our righteous anger has been given wings, and I loved seeing image after image of my friends and loved ones engaged in protest. Signs. Rallies. Standing up for what’s right.
My own page, however, was embarrassingly silent. Because, you see, I don’t protest.
A few years ago, I read Birth Work as Care Work, a book about activism, and one image really struck a chord with me. In this particular passage, the author talked about how working for her rights was so important for her, and she didn’t let having a child change her values in the least. In fact, she continued attending protests of all kinds with her little one in tow.
Similar sentiments were expressed in the many interviews I read in the aftermath of last weekend’s rallies. They’ve got to start sometime, parents said. This issue, it seems, has struck a chord with many, bringing out numbers I don’t think we’ve seen since the first Women’s March in 2017. Mothers and fathers can’t imagine the current horrors.
And so, they march.
I, on the other hand, do not take my kids to protests. I kind of wish I did, but I don’t.
Actually, if we’re being honest here, I don’t even attend protests anymore. Despite living just a short Metro ride away from Washington, D.C., the hub of activism, I haven’t attended any kind of political or social rally in several years.
I’ve often said that Teenage Me wouldn’t be able to pick out Adult Me from a crowd. Activism is just another area where this statement is all too true.
I grew up in an overwhelming liberal area of California, an already liberal state (plus I was in the Bay Area). I was in high school during the early years of the Bush administration, and like so many of my peers, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 lit a fire inside of me.
I can’t even tell you how many activist events I attended as a teenager. There were walkouts from school, sign making and postcard sending parties, and, of course, numerous marches. The most memorable of those was a huge anti-war march in the city of San Francisco, shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of strangers who all filled the streets to make it clear to our president that we didn’t like his policies in the Middle East.
I’ve only grown more knowledgeable in politics as the years have gone on, my views more nuanced. My later 20s saw a decrease in overt activism and, instead, an increase in milder forms of being heard. Phone calls and letters to my Congressional representatives. Donations to causes I believe in. Doing my civic duty by voting in every election.
Very few marches, though. Since my first child was born six years ago, I can count on one hand the number of times I made myself visible for a cause, and that cause was the one nearest and dearest to my heart at the time: childbirth. I attended rallies thrown by Improving Birth for several years, marching with signs and my baby on my back, and later in a stroller, and was proudly interviewed once by a local TV station.
But eventually, I stopped attending even those. I can’t really say for sure why. Perhaps it was because I found motherhood to be so all-consuming. Perhaps it was the chaos of life as a military wife, causing activism to be pushed to the back burner indefinitely.
I have two children now, and part of me yearns to get out and be visible again. And yet, I’ve abstained. I had a good excuse for missing the first Women’s March: I was in my third trimester of a high risk pregnancy and was unwilling to do anything that might jeopardize my very wanted rainbow baby. And in the months that followed, I had my newborn to consider; I wasn’t about to take such a tiny baby out into the crowds. Then it was a simple unwillingness to keep tabs on my older child while still adjusting to caring for an infant again. Then it was the heat and humidity of a Virginia summer.
Again and again, around and around. Every time my friends get together to make signs—for many of my friends out here now have very strong political views, views that apparently are sturdier than my own—I beg off. When the members of my church mobilize in their “Standing on the Side of Love” shirts to join in the latest movement, I find myself having other plans.
Is it still because I don’t want to try to navigate the crowds with two little ones? The baby would be on my back, but my older boy is a legitimate flight risk; he’s not always good about holding hands. And what about when the baby needs his nap? What would we all eat? Where would I find a quiet corner to nurse?
Is it because I don’t want to haul baby gear into the crush of the Metro? Or because I don’t want to deal with the parking situation in D.C.?
Is it because I don’t want to face the mockery of the vocal few in my circles who don’t believe as I do?
Is it because, with a husband working in the Navy, I don’t want to be any kind of liability to him?
Is it because I’m intimidated by the size of the crowds?
Is it because, with the ever-increasing numbers of public shootings in our country, I’m simply afraid of unwittingly putting myself and those I hold closest in my heart at unnecessary risk?
The murky truth lies somewhere in and around all of those issues. Deep in my heart, I want to start getting back out there. As my children get older, I find that my desire to instill my values into them, to see them living my priorities and my faith out loud, is slowly starting to edge out my fears.
But it hasn’t won yet. And so, I don’t protest. My (pink pussy) hat is off to all those of you who do, but for now, I’ll remain quietly on the sidelines. I’ll be cheering you on, and hopefully I’ll be ready to join you again someday soon.