A day full of surprises — and non-surprises

Photo by Shelby Knowles

The scale of the women’s marches in Austin and around our country earlier this month shouldn’t surprise us. All the mechanisms that spread fake news also spread real news. We have been listening.

When one of Donald Trump’s first actions as POTUS was to delete the climate change and LGBQT pages from the White House webpage, we heard the clarion call. We know what it means: Facts don’t matter. People don’t matter.

But some things — our actual bodies, our voices, and our readiness to fight  — cannot be so easily erased.

What shouldn’t surprise us: No arrests. Listen, we may be peaceful, but that doesn’t mean we are weak. If you want to talk about “American carnage,” we will show you the ferocity of American caring.

What shouldn’t surprise us: Our persistence. My sister-in-law waited four hours to get onto a packed train to head into the heart of D.C. Weather didn’t matter to marchers in Antarctica and South Carolina and Idaho. We are committed to change. We are in this for the long haul.

What shouldn’t surprise us: How many men marched, how diverse the marches were in race, religion, identity, how many generations marched together, and how many issues were represented in the signs and shouts.

We know we need to fix everything from racism to health care to discrimination to climate change. We may just be you-know-what to Trump, but to ourselves, we are a world — and we see the world with clarity. And when we march, we are not alone.

What should surprise us: Every single march organizer underestimated how many people would show up. In many cases, we were not so much marching as standing. Or you might say: standing up, publicly and visibly together.

Legislators, police, and even organizers expected this march to be business as usual. But we know this is a new day.

What should surprise us: How many people were marching for the first time. It’s not just our numbers, it’s the ways we are learning to be heard where it counts. My stepfather, who before signed petitions, is now regularly calling and writing his legislators. My friends who are poets and novelists are writing op-eds. We are stepping up our citizenship.

Trump doesn’t seem to care that we were there. His press secretary already tried to erase us. But every legislator should be paying attention. Here’s just one reason why: Everywhere I looked in Austin, there were children. One friend marched beside us with her infant daughter sleeping on her chest. Another friend, pregnant, marched beside us with a daughter in her womb. My husband pushed my daughter in her stroller. And there were waves of sons.

Every child at the march will remember this as something normal people do. Citizens sometimes take to the streets and the grounds of their capitols to stand up for what they believe in. Every single one of those children will carry being a citizen in their bodies differently after this. And every single person who attended those marches, me included, will never think of women the same way again.

Legislators, I defy you to say we make nothing happen. I defy you to try and ignore us again. I urge you to think about what will happen the next time we march into the voting booths.

If you expect business as usual, you will be mightily surprised.

Sasha West

Poet, professor