What Democracy Looks Like

It is the day after the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States. But we are not united. So in all 50 states (and all around the world, as well), larger than expected crowds took to the streets, raised their voices, and stood up for women’s rights and the rights of all of those who will undoubtedly be under siege with this new administration, including protestors.

I registered to walk with the American Jewish World Service (ajws.org) with whom I had travelled to Guatemala as a rabbinic global justice fellow 1-1/2 years ago. AJWS is a tremendous advocate for women’s rights internationally.

"Act justly, walk humbly" on my hat, and wearing my ACLU t-shirt, "Dissent is patriotic."

“Act justly, walk humbly” on my hat, and wearing my ACLU t-shirt, “Dissent is patriotic”

Judy Stern, her friend Joanne, and me with AJWS sign

Judy Stern, her friend Joanne, and me with AJWS sign, “Pursuing justice for women and girls worldwide.”

As we walked, the chants would come in waves, energize us for a time before fading out, replaced then by friendly chit-chat amongst the walkers who were thrust together in tight space. The crowd in NYC was 4x expectations (400,000 rather than the expected 100,000!), and the going was slow, inch by inch. And then another chant would rise, and we’d join in, and sing. Singing as protest is a time-honored and holy tradition.

My favorite chant was the call “Show me what democracy looks like!” to which the crowd would reply, “THIS is what democracy looks like!”

There was also the call “Whose body, whose choice?” with the reply, “My body, my choice!”

And “Love, not hate — that’s what makes America great!”

Along with great chants were creative and meaningful posters. Here are some of my favorite signs and scenes.

I'm with her (version 1)

I’m with her (version 1)

I'm with her (version 2)

I’m with her (version 2)

This march is not rigged!

This march is not rigged!

They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.

They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds.

Women are the wall, and Trump will pay.

Women are the wall, and Trump will pay.

Thanks, Trump. You turned me into an activist.

Thanks, Trump. You turned me into an activist.

Respect existence or expect resistance.

Respect existence or expect resistance.

Make America kind again.

Make America kind again.

Make empathy great again.

Make empathy great again.

Make America think again.

Make America think again.

"We won't go back" and "Vintage fashion, not vintage policies"

“We won’t go back” and “Vintage fashion, not vintage policies”

Don't make me use this.

Don’t make me use this.

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Super-callous, fascist, racist, extra braggadocious

Super-callous, fascist, racist, extra braggadocious

I don't think so.

I don’t think so.

Speechless not voiceless

Speechless not voiceless

Appalled at Rushmore

Appalled at Rushmore

Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. (James Baldwin)

Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. (James Baldwin)

 

Along the way, I ran into my friend and teacher, Alicia Ostriker, poet extraordinaire.

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Here is one scene of the great crowd on 42nd St.

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The crowds, as I said, were HUGE, and rolled on and on for hours, peacefully, and in good spirit. It took me 6 hours to walk a total of what I estimate to be 3-1/2 miles (about 35 city blocks). That’s terrible mileage! It was dark by the time I finished, and people left their signs behind along 55th Street, which was a great photo opportunity, too.

Abandoned posters

Abandoned posters

But those slogans and sentiments must not be left behind on 55th Street. We must carry them in our hearts, continue to be inspired by them, and ACT on them. This feel-good day is a launching pad for further action.

I’ll look forward to working with you in the days ahead.

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