Several Cal Poly community members went to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. last weekend. These are some of their stories.
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Amy Hewes, Director of Marketing and Communications in the College of Engineering Advancement Office.
Quite simply, the Women’s March on Washington called to me. I could not shake the miasma of the election; I literally wore all black for a week following Nov. 8.
That cloud started to lift on my journey to D.C. with my daughter, Hannah. Boarding the plane in Phoenix, I realized that 95 percent of the passengers were women going to the march. A plane full of women! We greeted each other, we smiled, we let each other go first, we high-fived, we thanked each other for making the trip. We were a community.
Our seatmate was a smartly dressed woman in her early 70s. A Republican, she had never done anything like this before.
“I had to come,” she said. “My party has left me.”
She recounted an experience that served as a moral touchstone in her life. At eight, she went to a Girl Scout camp in Texas. Her troop was integrated for the first time, and she became friends with several black girls. On an overnight horse camping ride, white men in pickups with rifles appeared, and the rancher who owned the property where they were to camp told them that they couldn’t stay. They spent the night huddled in a local park with police officers guarding them.
“I vowed I’d never feel that kind of shame again,” she said.
These were the kinds of stories we shared all weekend – with women on the Metro, with the ladies brunching at the next table on Sunday. They were from Florida, California, Minnesota, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Tennessee, everywhere.
At the march on Saturday, the crowd was so immense that it was very difficult to get close enough to even hear the speakers. Nevertheless, jammed together, literally almost unable to move, we stood for more than four hours, waving our signs, cheering when others cheered. Finally, we marched or shuffled, spilling onto Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. My group reached the White House at 5:30 p.m., seven and a half hours after the event began. The signs we left along the barriers for President Donald Trump told why we marched: the environment, affordable health care, public education, women’s health and reproductive rights, black/brown/immigrant lives, income inequality, voting rights, LGBT rights, the criminal justice system, gun violence and more.
But San Luis Obispo poet Diane Sousa said it best for all of us who marched:
“We gather and we march
To reclaim our voice
To release its thunder
To ignite its incendiary beauty
To rekindle its power and light
which has always lead us out of the darkness
We march to move forward
Because we can not go backward”
Sociology senior Nesrine Majzoub, civil engineering senior Daniel Hornett
I get it. I can understand now why our current president was elected. The night of the election, I heard shouts from outside my window. I saw tears across campus the next day. I felt a sadness in my heart, that our great nation wasn’t what I always thought it was. In California, we knew that our state was not hurt. We heard from Governor [Jerry] Brown that we would fight back and that we would be OK. But for most of us, it wasn’t enough. People felt frightened for their friends who may be undocumented, LGBT or simply female, whose rights are now under attack. Trump’s language and bigotry shocked us, and it shocked us even more that people fell for it. This still hasn’t normalized, and I hope it doesn’t. But at the same time, very real pain led people to cast their votes as they did, and it would hurt us to forget that.
We had the distinctly American pleasure of attending the peaceful transfer of power at the inauguration of our 45th president, Donald Trump. Our crew, Yellow Glass Media, went with the intentions of filming a short documentary that humanizes the people of both parties. We felt that there must be more to the “deplorables” and “whiners,” and we wanted to show that there was pain and love behind the choices that we all made this election.
We asked people at both the inauguration and the women’s march the same simple questions: how were you involved in the election this cycle? What issues in particular were you voting for or against with your vote? What question would you ask someone with opposing views? And, how can we hope to unify? Our interactions surprised me.
Before we even began their interviews, several Trump supporters asked where we were from, and when we said California, they lit up. They were thrilled that someone liberal (or so they deduced) was asking for their side of the story. While we listened, they opened up to us and shared their fears, and their hopes. They were excited to see a non-politician take power. They felt hurt by the lack of manufacturing jobs, and by the taxes that they had to pay. They saw American interest as a second priority in certain international affairs. An Egyptian immigrant Trump supporter explained that he agreed with Trump’s immigration reforms because the process should be easier, and fair to all who want to enter. Everyone we talked to wanted the best for their children.
The women’s march was a different energy entirely. People joined together in solidarity to show that Trump’s words, and this nation’s systems of oppression were not to be tolerated. Half a million people gathered and peacefully marched, singing songs and chanting anthems, without a single arrest. They spoke to us about love and taking care of each other, about morality and hope for an America for all. They too wanted the best for their children.
What I took away from this experience was not a message on policy or tolerance, but room for conversations and dialogue. The questions that our interviewees would ask their political counterparts were often answered in another interview. People simply wanted to be heard. What our country is facing is an issue of understanding, and of dehumanization. After talking with both sides, I can see people follow their fears and pain. While some things are inexcusable, it’s easy to forget this, and to forget sonder. We all need to bring politics to the dinner table.