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This is Democracy

Show me what democracy looks like!

This: millions of men and women of all ages across the world peacefully protesting for what they believe in. This past January I took to the streets. On a Thursday afternoon I boarded a plane with my dad, mom, and sister to Washington, D.C. I wore a shirt with “Suffragette” emblazoned on it. On the plane, many people wore pink pointed hats in defiance.

It was my first time visiting the U.S. capital. Wide eyed, I gaped at the Washington Monument and other beautiful sights. We pulled up to the Watergate Hotel, the infamous place where the Nixon scandal occurred. The hotel has embraced the scandal, playing Nixon’s resignation speech for you when you’re on hold.

The next day we turned on the TV in time for Trump’s inauguration speech. It felt surreal to be in the same city, and I watched bewildered as he proceeded to insult everyone surrounding him. As we walked into the lobby I saw my first “Make America Great Again!” hat in person; the bright, unnatural red unnerved me.

As we walked along the Potomac, I got a good glimpse of the other half of America that I was ignorant to: proud Trump supporters, happy and patriotic, wearing bright red hats, pins, and shirts. It was hard not to resent them for voting for such a dishonest, unqualified, immature showman. I wanted to point at their pins and ask, “Do you agree with what he said about women, veterans, disabled people, Muslims, foreigners, and so many more people?” I wanted to shake them out of their ignorance and pull myself out of mine; I knew I had biases too.

So I walked beside them silently, gawking at the Lincoln Memorial. I hated that I wasn’t wearing anything marking my views; we blended in with the Trump supporters. But I grinned at the pink-hatted protesters we passed.

The mood was solemn, it felt as if we were in a funeral procession. The weather seemed to share our sentiment as heavy clouds and light rain intermingled throughout the morning.

Emptiness permeated the grounds. I gazed up at the Washington Monument. The real thing was magnificent compared to the photos. We wandered to the museums, but weren’t admitted because they were full.

Walking along the streets, which were deserted because of the inauguration, we heard shouting. As we approached the noise, we saw that it was a parade of protesters. “No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!” They chanted in rhyme. My family joined in, tired of walking alongside all the Trump supporters. My energy poured into the crowd. I shouted and stamped my feet. Together, we stopped a number of Trump buses peacefully.

Later that day we went to a screening of my mom’s film: “50/50: The Past, Present and Future of Women in Power.” The film was released two weeks before the election, to coincide with a new era of leadership under our first female president, but when Trump was elected the film became even more poignant. When we arrived at the screening, we were again among like-minded people: liberal democrats talking about feminism. Something restrained in my chest was released.

The morning after the inauguration we woke up early for the Women’s March; already the mood seemed to be shifting in D.C. I pulled on my suffragette shirt and blue blazer. I wore 50/50 temporary tattoos on my cheeks and fists,and a white rose pin (what the Jews wore in Germany when Hitler rose to power) on my lapel. We made our way downstairs to an overwhelming majority of pink hats and bright signs. Excitement filled the air.

We drove to a spot several blocks from the march to meet with Refinery 29, an American-based fashion website that my mom worked with for her new film. We purchased pink hats and donned them proudly. The Refinery 29 staff were all dressed in artistic clothing with loud posters and the Venus symbol painted on their cheeks. After several Facebook Live sessions, we began making our way to the march.

The streets were congested with women and men in pink carrying posters. The Women’s March was already going strong. Kinship was forged just through the act of marching next to each other for something we all believed in.

We laughed at funny signs, sighed at poignant ones, and envied brilliant ones. We were swimming in one of the pink arteries of the march, and then we neared the main artery as we approached the Capitol Building. Again, I was wowed by the strength and history of the Capitol.

I ran forward ecstatically, weaving through the crowd of fellow protesters. From the top of the hill, there were protesters as far as the eye could see. The Women’s March had swallowed D.C. whole. The raw power emanating from the crowd was extraordinary. We were taking over Washington. We were standing up for our rights and expressing our opinion. We were powerful, and we were the resistance.

Soon the crowd slowed to halt, information was fed through long, distorted grapevines. Pressed up against one another, we shared backgrounds and stories. I met men and women from across the country: young and old, short and tall, immigrants and American-born. We were all in this together, the sense of family was all-encompassing. So wildly different from just the day before.

Soon, we understood that we were behind the stage with the speeches. We could faintly hear music and people talking. At 12:30 my feet began to hurt, at 1:00 my back ached. There was no way to move, nowhere to breathe. Although it was debated whether we should go, I truly wanted to stay in this close knit crowd. We pushed forward, squeezing through oceans of people. Finally, we pushed to the front of the stage to listen. We saw the Indigo Girls, Amy Schumer, Madonna, and Angela Davis. We saw a Rabbi and a Palestinian, hands raised together. We saw immigrants and the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement, pop stars, and professors. Most of all, we saw strong women guiding the way through “Trump Land.”

When the March began, we were in the middle of it – chanting, raising our posters and stomping our feet. It felt like a gigantic wave whooshing down the streets of D.C., a wave of feminine power. As we marched past Trump International Hotel a new chant broke out: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Protesters filled the empty bleachers that had been constructed for Trump’s inauguration. As we marched to the White House, we yelled to Trump, “Welcome to your first day! We are not going away!” We marched next to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and started chants on our own accord.

Finally, when our feet were torturously sore and our backs ached, we climbed onto one of the bleachers, looking over the massive crowd – the Capitol to our left and the White House to our right. I have never been so proud of this country.

[published in TeenInk Magazine and a Project for Girls]


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