Today the brand new president made statements accusing journalists of fabricating his feud with the United States intelligence community despite the evidence on his own Twitter account. His Press Secretary also used his first full day on the job to attempt convince the American people that the photographs of the inauguration were lies and warn news outlets against casting the president in an unfavorable light. This is the beginning of the post-truth era and this is why it is so important and so wonderful that over a million people around the world went outside, gathered together, and rejected that narrative.
Every time there’s a major protest movement I hear the same comments from both the opposed and the apathetic…. This is pointless. People with signs do nothing, change nothing… And, yeah, the world after the Women’s March is still pretty much as it was. The people in power remain in power and the things that they threaten remained threatened. But fatalism is the refuge of people who either don’t understand how human society works or are choosing to respond to criticism by delegitimatizing instead of acknowledging it. People with signs don’t magically change the world because that’s not how anything works and if you think that a sudden utopia is the only outcome that would make protest worthwhile then just… what is wrong with you?
But people with signs gathering together is powerful and important because it is fellowship. Today the Women’s March was a physical reminder for progressives in this country that we are the majority. Actually seeing crowds emboldens us, empowers us, and makes us harder to lie to.
1984 depicted a world in which power controlled truth. Winston Smith is alone until he finds Julia. I won’t spoil the ending but the book does what books are supposed to do and gives the reader a visceral understanding of what it is to have no truth of your own and how even two people joined together by a mutual complaint can be a threat that power takes seriously. As anyone who’s been gas-lighted will know, the first thing an abuser does is isolate you, the second is convince you that only they know what’s best. Knowing for a fact that you’re not alone and knowing that the problems you see in the world aren’t figments of your imagination, that is not nothing. That is not a pointless show.
So, the day after our president said “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America” we gathered together to remind ourselves that peaceful dissent is not just our right but our responsibility. A democracy must remain responsive to the ideologies its people. It is against the foundation of this country to proclaim that its government is above reproach. We have to remain critical. We have to stay engaged and demand the space to express both our love for this country and our anxiety at its direction. We don’t need to have a perfect answer, we don’t need to have a hive mind like solidarity, we don’t need anything other than signs and the space to gather and share our concerns.
Societies build their ideologies slowly over time through community contact and conversation. That’s why we protest. That’s why we keep protesting. Not because we have all the answers and the magic recipe for the perfect world but because in this very imperfect world we need each other now more than ever.
I hope some of the ripples caused by today go on to inspire change. I hope people begin to take an interest in local politics, pay closer attention to federal politics. I hope that not just the democratic party and people on the left, but that independents and those on the right who reject this post-truth dystopia we seem to be hurtling towards will feel emboldened by this reminder that we are the majority and we aren’t going anywhere.