Since the November election, I’ve joined countless marches and other demonstrations to protest what’s happening to our country. Earlier this week, we demonstrated against a Medicaid funding cut scheme that threatens the health of people with low incomes. This weekend, I’ll be singing with a March Chorus NYC at two demonstrations: The People for a Free Press rally and march on Saturday and Busking for Justice, to raise money for the ACLU, on Sunday. On April 22, there’s the March for Science in Washington. I expect to be adding my feet and voice to demonstrations earlier in April, too. This is not how I planned to spend my old age.
I’ve been told that I’m wasting my time, that political demonstrations accomplish nothing, that all this marching and chanting is dividing the country. I disagree, vehemently. The demonstrations are a symptom of the division in our country, not its cause. They serve to remind politicians at all levels of government that most of us who voted in November did not cast ballots for the current regime. As I write, I await Congress’s vote on the Obamacare repeal. If Obamacare survives, it will be in part because of the loud public outcry against the alternative.
America is a better country because of the people who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives to demonstrate relentlessly for civil rights in the 1960s. Because of those demonstrations, people who could not vote in 1960 can do so now, and their votes have rectified many more injustices. No, racism hasn’t been obliterated, but our civic institutions are far less infected with it. Demonstrations have helped to bring on other much-needed changes, too: workers’ rights and the end of the Vietnam war, to name just two.
Demonstrating keeps me from succumbing to despair. There’s nothing like being in a sea of people chanting against greed and bigotry and xenophobia and mendacity and ignorance to remind me that those are not the characteristics that define America and its people, even if our current regime exemplifies them. Some of the protesters’ signs are funny, too, and laughter will help us through this.
Until last November, I had marched only occasionally: twice in Washington to protect abortion rights, in the early gay rights marches of the ’70s, and a couple of times against US assaults on the Middle East. I generally disagree with Republican priorities, and presidents from both parties have enraged me, but never before has the outcome of a presidential election left me fearing for the future of American democracy. This last one did. That is why I am marching and demonstrating. I’ll stop when I drop or when America recovers from its current illness, whichever comes first.