Protesting is Best Done with Friends

In French, a public demonstration is une manifestation, and the root of that word is much more suited to how I feel about these marches.  Marches are belief and emotion made manifest.  I am disgusted by Donald Trump, I am horrified to think that any of his methods or ideas could find purchase in Canadian politics, and I am determined to speak up for a society that is progressive and tolerant and kind, damn it, and I want my feelings made manifest.

When I heard about the protest march against Trump’s election back in November, I wanted to go, but I was quite ambivalent.  Marches are not really my speed, but this was something about which I felt strongly, and I decided to show up.  That’s all, just show up and be present.  I wanted, physically, to represent my displeasure at the election’s outcome as well as my antipathy for the man.  (You can read more about my march to march project here.)  I went, alone, and I observed from the periphery.  I resolved that I would keep going to marches, but that in the future, my protesting would be done with friends.  The Women’s March on Washington, was, of course, the very best march to be done with friends.  I took two of my kids, who also saw their friends, and that was, perhaps, one of the best things to come from the march: the idea that these boys will remember the camaraderie.

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I decided to host a poster-making party the night before the Women’s March on Washington, in the first place, because I needed moral support.  Outrage is exhausting, and I wanted to surround myself with the amazing women I know and love in advance of expressing that outrage.  I also wanted these amazing women I know to get to know each other.  I wanted to create something of the evening, something beyond the posters, and the thing I wanted to create was a sense of optimism that we live in a world so full of good people.  I wanted to find strength in numbers, yes, but also joy in new connections.  Many of the circles of my life converged that night, and neighbours met co-workers who met old friends who met old colleagues, and I got the gift of seeing so many amazing women converge in the same house.

What an incredible delight the next day, to watch the news and to see that the numbers grew and grew and grew, and people marched in cities all around the world.  Our power made manifest.

There was a lot of food and drink and laughter and cake, and it all came together so perfectly as a celebration, which is also what I wanted to achieve.  I wanted an antidote to the constant, low-level anxiety of feeling the ground slipping beneath my feet.  Cake and drink and food all helped with that, but the real antidote to despair is friendship.

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Part of my project was to do good in the world every day, to take one action towards creating the kind of world in which I want to live.  The poster-making party was the culmination of that project, and in addition to gathering with amazing women, we collected a box full of pads and tampons to donate to a local women’s shelter.  It was my way of looking out, taking stock and asking, “How can this gathering do another kind of good?”  What if, every time we went to a party, we took food for the food bank, pads for the women’s shelter or books to donate to the book bank?  What if, every time we gathered with friends, we had a box of goodness to donate at the end of the night?  What if, every time we gather to protest, it’s an occasion to see old friends and make new ones?  So many different measures of good could come from the marches, so many different registers of happiness.

There has been and there will be more marching since then.  Marching against Islamophobia just this past weekend (Best sign: “We gave you hummus.  Have some respect!”).  The March for Science coming next month (“What do we want?  Evidence-based science!  When do we want it?  After peer review!”)  And I think it would be a wonderful thing to treat each of these events not just as an occasion to protest but as an occasion to gather, drink, eat, celebrate and do good, an occasion to give ourselves the sustenance of friendship.

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