Sophia Zhu ’18
The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington broke out and following that, numerous people started to rally at women’s marches in cities all around the world. It is impossible to give an exact number on the size of the crowd in total, but a rough estimation indicates there have been more than one million participants in this global movement protesting President Trump and the values he represents.
Beyond what protestors have been demanding, what moved me the most was a genuine belief that we should, need and must make our voices heard. Protesting as an important part of civil participation is not just an action, but a habit that requires all of to cultivate.
Outside the liberal bubble that I am used to living in, I heard criticisms, contempt and ridicules. Some were afraid that the protests were producing even more chaos and divisiveness. Others were asking, “What’s the use of all this? Can it change anything?”
The Women’s March on Washington illustrated how divided this country is. However, more harm comes from a society with superficial harmony, muffled discontents and a population without the bare willingness to stand up against injustice or admit universal values beyond those held by people in power. Ironically, it is this division that creates solidarity; it is the diversity of protestors and their demands that inspires the sense of unity; it is the chaos that indicates democracy is still alive.
Those who remain silent are hardly apolitical. After all, no one can be isolated from the influence of politics. On the contrary, many are very aware of the negative aspects of our political system but are too disappointed or frightened to act on them.
It can be hard to say exactly what this movement can lead to or to trace potential change back to any single protest of today. However, we will certainly feel the lack of protest when injustice happens and everyone stays silent. This movement is not a zero-sum competition between the few with power and the many without, but a necessary mechanism that helps decision-makers collect information otherwise unavailable to them. I marvel at the rise of the awareness of civil participation, as it is impossible to develop in a closed society full of oppression. Without awareness, democracy can only be a distant dream.
Researchers estimate that the Women’s March is the largest march in history, and it is also special in its unusually high share of young people and first-time protestors. The election of President Trump was a shock to many young people who may also be the most affected, partly because they are still struggling to define themselves while the world is sending them negative signals. The protests, however, clearly helped in countering the one-sided messages sent out by Trump with an even stronger voice echoed around the globe, which also gave parents a chance to set examples for the next generation. Inaction can be a sin when irreversible damages are done, and it takes its toll when, after generations, our children ask what role we played at the time.
More marches organized by different groups are yet to come, and it is important to maintain this tradition of civil participation and the collective courage to carry on this tradition. I would love to remain a very small part of the on-going cause and continue to see the untamed —and untamable — souls enlightening even the darkest corner of the world.