What Comes Next?

January 20, 2017
Image via Plainfield Today
Image via Plainfield Today

Over the last couple of weeks, all my liberal friends are asking each other the same question: “are you going to March?” Washington, New York, Boston, whatever the location, there hardly seems to be a justifiable excuse for a woman who cares about reproductive rights not to be marching. Being a woman suddenly demands public demonstration. We’re getting swept into a narrative of us and them once again - you’re either “with us” or “against us.” There is a yawning gap between the two, into which many people fall.

Among compatriots in the gap we find pro-life liberal women and women who don’t don’t feel represented by the self-righteous opposition to President-elect Trump’s stands - either real or imagined. Those women must choose whether to have those challenging conversations with their friends, family, and coworkers...or simply come up with another excuse to justify their non-participation.

Conservatives who want to see a peaceful transfer of power are gearing up for the inauguration whether or not their vote was for President-elect Trump. To many of these citizens, now is a moment to mark, to honor, to contemplate the hopes and anticipations of Trump voters. Regardless of how they voted, many of these conservatives also care about women’s rights. Is there a space for them alongside the liberal masses?

I wholeheartedly support organizing and collective action. The prospect of a revival of political action is invigorating, especially in a time perceived as a national crisis. We know that marches and rallies in protest are an important part of our civil rights; so is continuing the tradition of the peaceful transfer of power and celebrating the pomp and circumstance that belong to the highest office in the land.

Once this weekend’s intense demonstrations are finished, though, will we simply continue to talk about what (and who) we reject? Or can we channel this sharpening desire for political expression into the part of our democracy that is about engaging each other? It’s easy to “stand against hate.” It’s harder to stand for - and with - your community, especially through meetings and conversations that can be long and difficult.

So let’s go forth. Protest. March. Attend inauguration parties. And then let’s we show up for each other in community, and grapple together with the very real issues that are at stake for us locally: opioid use, health care, affordable housing, police-community relationships, racial tensions and access to work.

We will need to withstand the irritation of being with fellow citizens who don’t think like we do, and the patience to endure how long it can take for us to really understand each other and carve a path forward. We will need folks who show up and help others show up - offering rides, child care, and most of all encouragement that their voices matter. The more we do this, the stronger we make our nation’s democracy from fear of terrorism at home or abroad. Neighbors who know and trust each other can work together through the worst disagreement. May the millions who tune in to the inauguration, who march in the streets, and who stay home due to indifference or dismay find energy to spare when it is all over for what is next. The long work of democracy’s promise continues long past this news cycle, and belongs to all of us.