Why We March by Irene Rasmussen

On January 19th I will proudly join the 3rd Annual Women’s March. This year’s march will begin at the Newport City hall at 12:30. Details of the route will be provided there. I hope you will join us and I hope you all recognize why marching matters. 

We live in a democracy, and in a democracy, voting is often considered the single most important thing a member of the community can do. In fact, it is the bare minimum.

Our ballots and choices are secret for a good reason—secrecy helps the shy, the modest, and the soft spoken among us to remain anonymous—it allows them to avoid the public arguments and discussions that come with taking controversial positions. Unfortunately, those same conversations are also vital to a healthy democracy. In times of crisis, there comes a point where people need to stand up and be counted: marching matters because it creates a space where people can do this. 

There is no doubt that our nation is in serious trouble these days. There is no avoiding the fact that a lot of this has to do with President Trump. There are people on both ends of the political spectrum who will not march. To my mind, they are equally sad. 

The first are Trump apologists who say of the president’s latest outrage that “people don’t care.” In other words, because they don’t care themselves about immigrant children, destitute endangered refugees, minorities, working people, people losing their healthcare, etc., they assume others don’t care either. By that taking that position they encourage others not to care as well. Their attitude is corrosive: above all, a successful democracy requires that its citizens care.

The second group of non-marchers wrongly feel that they are too perfect for the rest of us. We are not inclusive, correct, or rightly guided enough. Therefore, they will say nothing—not (like the first group) out of ignorance, but out of arrogance. This is equally corrosive to democracy. 

There is a third group who are simply disillusioned. They say that they marched last year, but nothing changed. They have concluded that marching doesn’t matter. I say that maybe not enough people marched, or maybe they didn’t march long enough. The theme of this year’s march is persistence. 

Some say that marchers only seem to be against things, not for anything positive. That is pure nonsense—I know people who will march for healthcare, for immigrants and asylum seekers, for the 14,600 children still separated from their parents on the border, for action on climate change, for ending the occupation of Palestine and the horrific war in Yemen. Of course, they are also against an administration that has brought these tragedies on—but they are also for positive policies that will change them. 

Evangelicals take heed! Most spiritual traditions are about helping people establish a relationship with their creator and their place in a grand design. A person really can’t do that without also establishing a relationship with the creator’s creation: that means our fellow human beings and our planet. As a famous activist once said, “At its root, politics is simply how we treat other people.”  Let me add again, “And our planet.” That makes politics more than a civic duty: it makes it a profoundly spiritual endeavor. 

Coming together, breathing together, walking together, raising our voices together, are the most basic ways that humans celebrate their solidarity. The great faiths of the world all have spiritual practices based on these simple acts. That is what the concept of pilgrimage is all about. Whatever the physical destination of a pilgrimage—Jerusalem, Mecca, or thousands of other sacred places, the real destination is one’s own spiritual center. When grounded in that center we are all stronger as we move to address the problems of the world. Whatever your reason—secular or spiritual, political or personal, I hope you will join us as we march. If you are troubled by the state of our nation, but can’t think of a reason to march, maybe you should march anyway. You might find the reason along the way.