"Why I March" By Tina L. Chrismore
"Why I March" By Tina L.Chrismore
I am not a paid protestor, nor am I part of a liberal protest organization. I am a citizen of the United States who is fully awake after our last presidential election. I now feel the need to march, more than any other time in my life, because America has changed.
Being political is not new to me. I am a self-proclaimed news junkie, more interested and informed than most of my friends and family. I became a Young Republican while in high school in the blue collar town of Newton, Iowa, former home of the Maytag Company. Back then, Republicans I followed were moderate conservatives, nothing like the extremists coming from Iowa today. The parents of a friend of mine were very political and were helping their son build his political resume, so they created a Young Republicans club and installed him as president. I joined as secretary and started helping out with grassroots political action. It was after years of Young Republicans, College Republicans and Campaign Management School (CMS) that I realized that I am not a Republican.
I was especially turned off by the tricks they taught at CMS. One of the notes I took, stated: “It doesn’t matter if it is the truth, as long as it is perceived as the truth.” This was the final straw, and finally gave me the strength to leave the party.
Because I am loyal, I was not able to immediately join the Democratic Party. I became an Independent. I love voting and feel it is my civic duty. This is one value that the Republican Party instilled in me – EVERY VOTE MATTERS. While living in Chicago I realized that as an Independent, I was not allowed to vote in primaries. Rather than have the decision made for me, I decided that I must finally commit to the Democratic Party. I did not take this commitment lightly, but made a thoughtful change in order to align myself with the party that most represents my core beliefs.
In the 1990’s I never felt the need to march. I became a devoted Bill Clinton supporter. I admired him for his intelligence and the pure joy he had for his job. I watched as the conservatives in both parties kept the first lady in her place as a greeter and party planner, rather than allowing her to use her intelligence, experience and abilities as a policy maker. And, I do not doubt for one minute that there existed a “vast right-winged conspiracy” against the Clintons. Unfortunately, President Clinton did not help himself by his weakness with women. It was easy for me to forgive his weakness, and much harder for me to forgive the relentless attacks from Kenneth Starr and Republicans using this infidelity to create a case for impeachment.
During this time I participated in many walk-a-thons. I joined a march against domestic violence in Boston, and in NYC raised money for MS, Breast Cancer, and AIDS. I didn’t feel much need for political protest. However, I did join a march against the Iraq War during the GW Bush administration and recently joined the climate march during the Obama administration. But, how I feel now is much different.
Like many Americans, I watched as Donald Trump ran an unconventional reality TV show, circus of a presidential campaign. I watched Republican debates that were so low-brow that seasoned politicians were rendered speechless and confused about how to respond. As children we are taught that it is best to stand up to bullies or do not engage, but never sink to their level. Over and over again, we saw the GOP sink to Trump’s level making themselves look ridiculous. Because it was Donald Trump’s way to be rude and abrasive, he was held to different standards as an “outsider.” People smiled and shook their heads and said it was just Donald being Donald. He’s unconventional, but somehow they convinced themselves that he would magically be different once he became president.
I was shocked when Trump became the GOP nominee. His crude behavior, racist comments, sexism towards women, mocking of the disabled reporter. . . all of this was repulsive to me. I worried about Hillary Clinton having to debate such an awful bully. When the time came, Hillary wiped the floor with him. But, the theatrics of Trump were the focus, not what was said. Clinton’s knowledge of issues, intelligence and compassion were not acknowledged. Instead Trump portrayed her as a “nasty woman” with all the distain that sexist people have for powerful women.
Although I was worried, I still believed that the thoughtful voter would rise above the sexism and the illogical rabid hatred that right-wing Republicans have been nurturing against the Clintons for years, and make a sane choice. But, somehow Hillary wanting to be president was seen as power hungry and self-serving, while any man doing the same was considered a respected leader. The double standards, the emails, the pointless Benghazi hearings, the relentless fake news coming from overseas operatives. . . all of this stacked up against our first woman presidential candidate, yet, I still believe she would be able to pull off a win.
On Election Day, I was excited to vote for the most qualified person to ever run for president. I posted on twitter that I voted. That evening, I stayed up and watched the nightmare unfold. As the returns came we saw that once again an unqualified, unprepared man got the job instead of a highly qualified, prepared woman. I am appalled that women could forgive and forget all that Trump said and did and still vote for him.
I don’t think Trump voters are racist or sexist, but the fact that they voted for him means they were okay with it. One of my sisters mentioned she liked him on the Apprentice, and I don’t doubt many Americans voted for him because of his celebrity.
The next day I went to work at my diverse high school in the Bronx. There was a feeling of dread in the air. We have many Muslim students, minorities, undocumented, and/or students with family members who are undocumented. They were scared and said that a lot of their friends are, too. After a dreadful day I went home and was watching the news feeling hopeless and helpless. As my depression was setting in I noticed on Twitter that people were starting to march at 42nd Street. Without a second thought, I put on my shoes and coat and took the subway downtown. When I got out of the subway I saw a huge crowd of people in the streets. I joined them and we marched through the streets headed to Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. We chanted “Whose streets? OUR streets!” as cars slowed and honked and many people with cellphones were recording and cheering us on. It was amazing to feel that I was not alone in my despair. I felt less isolated in the beautiful, diverse, spontaneous crowd gathering to tell that world that Trump’s values are NOT America’s values.
“Not my president!” and “Immigrants are welcome here!” We were expressing love, support, inclusion, and it gave me hope that America was NOT going back to a time where women and minority rights are stomped on. I am still filled with disbelief that Trump is president. I am filled with the passion to protest. As this administration, full of wealthy white men, try to turn back time against women, minorities, the environment, health care, public education, social programs for our most vulnerable citizens, in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and increase the size of our military power, I will not back down. I went back to Trump Tower a few days later to stand with like-minded New Yorkers, but the streets were blocked off. The protestors were barricaded so they could no longer can move freely. I went to join some protestors in front of Trump International Hotel, but this was also mostly blocked off. On January 21st, I joined the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., by boarding a NYC National Organization of Women’s bus at 4:30 am to join millions of women who felt the need to show up and stand up for the rights of women. The crowds were so large we never made it to the staging area, but I wanted to be there and be counted. It was empowering to be a part of a movement with the message of peace, love, and acceptance. We were marching because we were offended by the messages that came from the Trump campaign. We were also marching because of our outrage and disbelief that Hillary Clinton, who some say could have been one of American’s greatest presidents, was not elected partially because this country is not ready to accept a woman in power.
I will continue to march to protect the rights of women, to protect the environment, to protect public education, to fight for public television and the National Endowment for the Arts, and say NO to cutting important social services to our most vulnerable citizens. I will be out on April 15th to demand that all presidential candidates be required to release their taxes to run for this high office. I will be marching on Earth Day, April 22nd, with the March for Science. Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges in our lifetime. I will stand with Al Gore and his Climate Reality Project for the Climate March on April 29th. We must fight to protect Mother Earth and not allow our government to abolish the EPA. We need regulations to protect the environment from corporations that will always put profits first. I will continue to support women and men who will run for office so they can go to Washington to work for the people and be a government that reflects the people. For many of us unpaid protestors, marching is not something we want to do, it is something we must do.
By Tina L. Chrismore