Bearing Witness to the #WomensMarch Worldwide

A family of protesting mice bear a rainbow banner that reads "Make America Kind Again", and features the symbols for men, women and transgender folks, with a pawprint in each. Other mice in the background carry signs that read "Paws Off My Body", "Love is Love is Love", "Equality for All", and "Seriously, WTF?"

January 20th 2017 was a dark day for the history books as Donald Trump was sworn in to the presidency. At the stroke of noon, information about LGBT rights was wiped from the White House website. Gone, too, the pages on climate change, disabilities, civil rights, and healthcare. The representation so many fought for – simply deleted.

Photo of #womensmarchphilly featuring a sign that reads "The Power of the People is Stronger than the people in power!" Photo by Edie Weinstein.
Photo of #womensmarchphilly featuring a sign that reads “The Power of the People is Stronger than the people in power!” Photo by Edie Weinstein.

But the history books will not end there. January 21st will be remembered as the day that people all over the country and all over the world rose up in one of the most massive displays of hope and solidarity ever seen.

For all of the millions of people who showed up and took a stand, there were many more like myself who were unable to attend, but who watched the photos and stories pour in throughout the day, feeling our hearts rise up and stick in our throats, feeling hope for the first time since Election Day.

The most prominent sign reads "You are not Alone/not Today - Not Any Day/Together/We will be OK"
Signs from #womensmarchphilly woven into a fence after the march. Photo by Edie Weinstein.

Most folks I knew attended a march somewhere. But others had to work, or tend sick children. Many like myself struggle with disabilities that make marching or navigating crowds difficult or impossible. With the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid under attack and a president who thinks nothing of mocking the disabled, this was a particularly hard march to sit out for many of us, and I’m extra proud of my friends with disabilities who marched on behalf of the many more who could not.

A man holds a sign that reads "I'm with her" and arrows pointing in all directions at the surrounding crowd. Photo by Jayne Selwa.
A man holds a sign that reads “I’m with her” with arrows pointing in all directions at the surrounding crowd. Photo by Jayne Selwa.

Some helped support the effort in other ways, packing lunches for people travelling by bus, or spending the day writing letters to elected officials. Several friends marched with cards bearing the names of people who were unable to attend, allowing them to be present in spirit.

Cards listing names and reasons for wanting to march are spread out on the floor, so the people they represent may be carried in spirit.
Names of people who could not attend but wished to be carried in spirit. Photo by Beth Ann Gardner.

At home at my computer, I soaked in the news and the photos and the stories pouring in from around the world and felt hope for the first time in months. I thought, “We are strong, we are many.” I thought, “We can fight this. The whole world is watching.” So I did what I do best. I drew, and I listened, and I boosted the signals of friends and strangers via Facebook and Twitter. I did what I could to spread the message of hope and solidarity. It was a very, very small thing. But it was a start.

A family of protesting mice bear a rainbow banner that reads "Make America Kind Again".
As the day unfolded, I poured over photos of marchers and their signs, and I did what I do best – I drew.

At the end of the day, a New York Times post featuring images from all continents of the world made the rounds on Facebook, and many, including myself, wept to see the outpouring of support.

That same day, there was a meme circulating around Twitter. It read, “During WWII, Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. He replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ ”

Photo of Winston Churchill against the British flag. The text reads, "During WWII, Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. He replied, 'Then what are we fighting for?' "

Art is one of many things that bolsters our spirits and spurs us onward when the going gets tough. And the going has just gotten very, very tough. My goal, when I drew my family of protesting mice, was that my little drawing would remind people of the hope of that day, and cheer folks onward in the fight ahead, as their marching had cheered me. I envisioned all of us bombarding our elected officials with postcards in the weeks and months ahead, to make sure they don’t forget either. I was thinking of art that has helped me find a smile and a little more strength when I needed it, and hoping my offering might do that for others.

A family of protesting mice bear a rainbow banner that reads "Make America Kind Again", and features the symbols for men, women and transgender folks, with a pawprint in each. Other mice in the background carry signs that read "Paws Off My Body", "Love is Love is Love", "Equality for All", and "Seriously, WTF?"
“Make America Kind Again”, the finished version.
Countless protest signs are laid on the ground and tucked into the White House fence at #womensmarchdc. Photo by Kristina A. Boylan.
Countless protest signs are laid on the ground and tucked into the White House fence at #womensmarchdc. Photo by Kristina A. Boylan.

It was a large colorful banner at #womensmarchphilly that inspired the drawing. It appeared in a live feed on Facebook, and the simplicity of “Make America Kind Again” hit me in the gut, because so much of what we are fighting for boils down to basic decency and kindness. It is the golden rule of treating others as we ourselves wish to be treated. It is the platinum rule of looking beyond our own perspectives to understand how we may treat others as they wish to be treated. We learn these ideas in childhood, and yet true inclusivity perpetually evades us, as we grow in our understanding and empathy and the bar is set ever higher. And so we are not just fighting for what we are afraid to lose. We are fighting for a fundamental justice we have reached for but not yet grasped, that we see slipping further away, and that we are afraid we might not ever gain. We fight because we know we can do better.

January 20th will be remembered as the day Donald Trump finally set fire to the trash heap of hate he’s been building since his campaign began. But January 21st will be remembered as the day the whole world joined hands in a bucket chain to drown out that fire. The flames are stubborn, and the future of my country is more uncertain than it has ever been in my lifetime. But the will to fight is strong. It’s gonna be a long, long four years, and the #womensmarch marks only the beginning of the fight. We will need to pace ourselves. We will need to take care of each other. But we can do this. We have to do this. And so we will.

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rb-make-america-kind-misc-sq-2017_01Want to bombard your elected officials with postcards? Buy them here. Snail mail counts for a lot more with legislators than email, so whether you use my design or the back of a piece of scrap paper, I hope you will start writing letters! Want a print to brighten a room and keep you on track? You can find those, plus stickers, notecards, zippered pouches, travel mugs and laptop sleeves here.