Last night my brother asked me why I was protesting, what was my goal. I answered, but my answer was incomplete. I said something about impeachment and then something about reversing the tide with the mid-term elections.
What I should have said was that I can’t not do this. And here’s why:
Imagine you’re hosting a gathering of family and friends. Everyone is chatting and laughing and having a good time. Then, someone comes in and – slowly at first – starts making rude comments. He mocks your neighbor who has a disability. Then he demeans a friend of yours who is a decorated veteran. He looks at your cousin and questions where he was born, asks whether he should even be here. He starts making crude comments to your sister or your daughter.
At first you’re startled and you don’t say anything. He’s telling you how great he is, how important, how lucky you are to have him at your party. You’re hoping he’ll just go away, but he doesn’t.
Then he starts talking about journalists, and how they’re among the worst people on earth. Yet your son-in-law is a journalist, as are many of your close friends. And you’ve seen them pull all-nighters digging for news and fact-checking stories. They’re among the most honest and hardest working people you know. How can this be?
You probably have a daughter or son or friend who’s a teacher and you’ve witnessed their devotion to kids, helping them learn and grow and make their way in the world. Yet your interloper dismisses their efforts by bragging that he’ll turn their world over to a billionaire who knows nothing about public education or why it’s important. Your dismay deepens.
At this point someone starts to object, but he tells her to sit down and shut up. And, oh by the way, your messy, diverse, fun-loving gathering will be limited in the future. He’ll decide who gets to come in.
You can’t throw him out of your party – and he refuses to leave – so you do the only thing you can. You stand up and say, “None of this is OK.”
We’re not at a party now – and it certainly doesn’t feel like it – but we are all a gathering of Americans and we shouldn’t let our rules of civility and core values be decimated by someone who bursts on the scene and demands that it be so.
And that’s why I’m out protesting – granddaughters in tow. Because none of this is OK. I don’t want my grandchildren growing up in a world in which it’s OK to call names, insult people and tell lies. I want them to realize their full value and potential as women – as people – and to learn that if it’s not right, not OK, you stand up and say so.
For the first time in my life, I’m engaging in activism by going to marches and rallies and calling members of Congress every morning to convey my opinions. Activism can take all kinds of forms – boycotting businesses, donating to causes, helping someone in need, speaking up when you hear a slur or a demeaning comment. Not only is it the right thing to do but it’s also incredibly empowering and rewarding to be aligned with so many others who are saying, “No. This is not OK.”
So, that’s the goal here. To speak up, to say something, to do something. To not be silent. Because, to paraphrase a famous quotation, by the time they come after me or you, there may be no one left to speak up.