You may have heard: the U.S. held presidential elections a few months ago, and an inauguration a few days ago. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this one – foreign influence, decisions made by the FBI director, Twitter, the rise of white supremacy, the electoral college, and on and on. Folks keep pointing out that the peaceful transfer of power is the bedrock of the American political system. I agree. I’ve served in countries where that doesn’t happen. I celebrate the peaceful transfer of power. But…
…there’s a monster at the end of this blog post.
I had a dentist appointment on Inauguration Day. I live in Baltimore. My dentist’s office is in Arlington. I really love my dentist. So I got up early to catch the train from Baltimore to DC, then the Metro from DC to Arlington. I saw the crowds of people headed to the inauguration – more people than one would normally see boarding a commuter train at 8:30 in the morning, I imagine. I’m #stillwithher, so I felt pretty much alone on that train surrounded by folks wearing red ball caps made in China.
You should stop reading now. There’s a monster at the end of this blog post.
This entire election cycle has depressed me. It seems to me that there was less focus on the issues and more focus on name-calling – from the run-up to the primaries, through the debates, and election day. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, but it seems to be what the “American people” want. At least, that’s the perception. This election cycle has also been an eye-opener for a lot of people. People have learned that there is an ugly underbelly in America. The people who are shocked have likely lived their lives in bubbles that shielded them from things that others have had to face on a regular basis, and they don’t like it. Welcome to our world.
You’re getting close to the end of this blog post. There’s a monster there. Stop reading!
Yesterday, I got up early again to go back to DC. No, not another dental appointment. This time I was going to the Women’s March on Washington. Once again, I headed to Baltimore Penn Station arriving at a few minutes before 7:00. It was a different scene this time: hundreds and hundreds of men and women, wearing hats in various shades of pink, carrying signs that expressed their opinions, laughing with each other, talking to strangers, and inching forward – getting closer and closer to that train. I talked to a few strangers myself: the older ladies from Connecticut, the young guys from Baltimore, the older man who walked up and down the line thanking us and encouraging us to hang in there. The line wrapped around Penn Station – there must have been thousands of us! It was nice to be a part of such a positive force.
Stop! There’s a monster at the end of this blog post.
After three and a half hours, with no idea of when or if a train would come, my friend and I got out of line. (Sidebar: for some reason, MARC did not anticipate the crowds of people who would want to go to Washington that day. There were only two trains in the morning.) So we got out of line. I felt bad about that. But my new friends from Connecticut pointed out that it didn’t matter if we made it to Washington or not. The point was, we came out in force. We were noticed. We were there in spirit.
That’s how I came to write this blog post. You’ve reached the end now. There is a monster. It’s me. It’s you. It’s all of us. That monster is democracy and it’s unstoppable. I’ve seen what democracy can do. It galvanizes people to call their senators and representatives, to challenge the media to dig deeper, to donate their time and money to worthy causes. Democracy is why we speak up for those who can’t. It’s why we express our joy and our outrage in response to our elected representatives’ actions. It’s why at least half a million people showed up in DC yesterday. Because we the people. Because democracy. We are all monsters and when we work together, we can be pretty scary.