By Rev. Courtney Stange-Tregear, Seattle, WA
I will remember it as a glorious, exhilarating, dreadful kind of day. The kind of experience that defies categorization. I was thrilled to be there and honored to be there in an official capacity representing my church. But I was also still feeling stuck in that denial stage of grief, where it seemed like waves of despair were hitting me periodically. One of the first signs I saw said “I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit.” Those were my thoughts exactly and I took comfort in the sense of solidarity.
I had prepared for a cold January day, shivering in the streets, but it was unseasonably warm. By the time I left my hotel in the early morning the streets were already starting to fill. There were lots of Pink Pussy hats on display, but there were also a few groups on the sidewalks with their red trucker hats proclaiming “Make America Great Again.” I met up with other church people from all over the country and we walked to the rally point together.
We were on time, maybe even a little early, but when I got to the rally it was already so full I couldn’t get close enough to hear the speakers. Within an hour there were so many people crowded in behind me that I couldn’t realistically leave. At that point I realized that cell service was out and gave up on connecting with any other friends. Not able to move forward, not worth it to go back, I was stuck.
As I so frequently tell my kids, sometimes the most important thing is just showing up. About four hours I stood there, not able to hear the rally speakers, not able to move. It gave me ample time to think and reflect, and yet I’m still not sure what I make of the event.
I loved all the different protest signs. The incredulous ones, the angry ones, the clever ones, arty ones and especially the intersectional ones (of which there were certainly not enough!). The chants were pretty good as well. I was particularly touched by the groups of young men that led chants; their deep voices calling for response, while also being mindful of their pronouns. It certainly felt momentous to have so many people gathered in one place for one purpose.
A couple of times I saw someone sick or hurt, and the crowd stepped up. The person was given space and tended to. Even when the crowd started to feel more like a mob, everyone was kind and polite at every turn. The vibe was completely collaborative, without even the faintest hint of violence, as if the day had been sponsored by Mother Earth herself.
Eventually, the March route was adjusted and we were on the move. It was nice to be able to walk again and inspiring to take in the sheer volume of people. The streets were full for as far as I could see in every direction. I don’t use the word lightly, but it was literally breathtaking.
And then it was over.
I still don’t know quite what I make of the day. I am glad that I went. I am also heartbroken that it had to happen. The best thing that came of it is that it helped me move past my grief. I am done with denial and bargaining and mourning. I am ready to fight, strategically, to protect whatever justice and democracy we have left. Protests are just the beginning and probably the real fight is going to be a lot less beautiful than the Women’s March was.
I’m reminded of Esther. Esther is the biblical story of a woman who was called to exercise the bit of power she had to obtain freedom for her people. I believe that, like Esther, we have been called for just such a time as this. I believe that intersectional feminism is paving the way. May it be so.