The Women's March was a tremendous day of protest and solidarity, and a worldwide announcement that we will not quietly accede to this unprecedented situation. But it's over. And I'm left with this feeling. You're probably left with this feeling. We're all left with this feeling, and it is just so scary and it makes me want to lie down and not get up.
I've been thinking about what to do and how to make this a livable situation, and the answer I've found is, as always, in the past.
Do you know why movies aren't made about the 19th century women's movement? Or the anti-slavery efforts in 18th century America? There's no triumphant ending. Elizabeth Cady Stanton never voted. Neither did Susan B. Anthony. Or Sojourner Truth. Most abolitionists who labored from 1785 through the early 1800s only saw increased division and rancor in their lifetime concerning the topic dearest to them, something as huge as the recognition of an entire race's humanity (sound familiar?).
Was these people's work in vain? Was it hopeless? Should they have stopped when they were jeered at? Mocked? When those in power refused to listen to them? When they realized that their goals would probably not be witnessed in their own lifetimes? It must have been so hard. We know it must have been so hard, because we're feeling some of what they must have felt.
No matter if we see tangible results, the work we do is important. Keeping up a voice of dissent in the face of wrong is important. It IS very scary now and it is hard, but what you can see when reading about social justice heroes of the past is that while they might have been noticed because they were the leaders, they would not have been able to accomplish what they did without people fighting with them. Hundreds of thousands of people, having jobs, having families, having other commitments, but who also worked for causes they believed in and who fought against the voices in power that said it would never happen and they were wasting their time.
These people toppled the monarchy in France, ended slavery, transformed women's rights, and were behind every major social change in history because those with power do not surrender it voluntarily. As Ralph Waldo Emerson points out, the state of the world is all created out of a series of thoughts. Someone had a thought to march on Washington, and there were people and signs and banners and buses and over 700 solidarity marches worldwide with millions of people, all because of one thought.
To quote another's thought: if we carry on with the little bits of work we can do, writing, calling, marching, and talking, this nation "shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."