Yesterday, I ran into a friend at the MLK Day parade – somebody I’ve known and admired for a long time. She stepped out of the parade to give me a hug and a mint-green rubber bracelet that reads “Choosing Love, Creating Peace.” She’d had a bunch of them made in honor of the post-inaugural Women’s March this Saturday and was passing them out as she marched along the streets of downtown Beaufort. She’s a natural-born marcher, my friend.
I know lots of women going to the march in DC this weekend – some taking busses, others driving their cars. My teenage daughter even has a couple of friends going with their moms. She floated this information over after-school coffee drinks at Starbuck’s last week, and I felt that tingle of discomfort, once again, reminding me that my child is at an age now when I can no longer protect her from – and, in fact, must try to guide her through – the tangled morass that is American politics.
How to explain to her why I’m not going to the Women’s March? Tell her that though I don’t like Donald Trump, I’m not convinced he’s a threat to women’s rights… or anybody else’s? That though I have plenty of anxiety about the incoming administration, I hesitate to condemn it outright before giving it a chance? That though I’m especially worried about losing our health insurance, I always knew Obamacare couldn’t sustain itself for long, because… math? That I’m trying to show respect for our electoral process, and for all the millions of Americans who voted for Trump? That I understand the many reasons people voted for him – that I don’t believe they’re just a bunch of racists and haters and fools? That I stand with them, and with all Americans? That I still believe in the system? (I think?)
I sputtered it all out, best I could. And then I explained to my daughter that our friends who are going to the Women’s March are good, passionate people who simply see things a little differently than I do. That they’re following their best guiding lights – their consciences – just like I am. And that having the freedom to do that – to march or not to march – is just one of the many blessings we enjoy as American citizens.
As I sit here looking at my rubber bracelet this morning (yes, I slept in it) I’m reminded that some of us see things in very clear terms – right and wrong, black and white – and have no doubt about the actions we must take . . . the bold responses we must make. Others of us are more conflicted by nature. Less certain. More inclined to see in shades of gray. The older I get, the more I believe we truly need both kinds in this world. My kind – the “shady” kind – is no less interested in “choosing love” or “creating peace” than the other kind. We just take a different, more circuitous route. You’re not likely to see us marching, but you very well may see us at the coffee shop, muddling through difficult concepts with our kids… or up before dawn agonizing over those concepts in writing… or even just sitting at home, watching another presidential inauguration, with an ambivalent (maybe even broken) heart . . . still hoping for the best. Please don’t write us off as unaware or unconcerned or apathetic. For people like us, not acting is often… an action. Something we’ve hashed out internally. Not just a default, but a choice. And even though we’re at home, chances are we’re wearing our bracelets.
To all my friends who are heading to DC: Safe travels and great love. (That’s what my late boss Pat Conroy would have said. “Great love.” He was a marcher, like you.) Do what you gotta do, and so will I, and we’ll all meet up for drinks on the other side of Saturday.