Most Saturdays, I use up the old bananas to make muffins. Most Saturdays, I bust out the big mop to deep clean all the little messes from the week. Saturday, January 21, the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated, was not most Saturdays. Saturday, January 21, I let the bananas go. I let the floor stay dirty. I hung up my apron, put on some pink cat ears, and I marched.
I have never been very politically active, but that changed when Donald Trump became President. On January 21, I decided to speak up. I dove head first into the sea of signs and pink hats that flooded the streets of downtown Nashville for the Tennessee Women’s March. It was a new and awesome experience. The fact that such a vast amount of people came together to stand up for and support each other took my breath away. I felt humbled and empowered at the same time. It was amazing . . . until my phone buzzed. I pulled it from my pocket and saw that my pathologically conservative Republican father was calling. I returned the phone to my pocket, resumed my chanting, and made a mental note to call him back when I got home. Less than five minutes later, my phone buzzed . . . again my dad. This time, I returned the phone to my pocket — with some hesitation — and made a note to DEFINITELY call him back . . . until it buzzed a third time. Yep, it was my dad. At that point, I went from age 41 to age 15 in less than 2 seconds. It was the closest thing to time travel I’d ever experienced. “SHIT! He knows I’m here! How did he find out? How am I going to explain what I am doing here?” I felt as though I had taken the car without permission, or been caught at a forbidden concert. My brain panicked and started to search for excuses.
I told my friend that my dad had called – three times — as if to conspire how we might get out of this. She calmly said, “Why don’t you call him back? Something could be wrong.” “Oh . . . uh, yeah, something could be wrong.” Her rational statement smacked me back to age 41. What kind of crazy was I to think, even for a second, that my dad would call that many times because I was in “trouble” for participating in a march?
“Respect you elders, Amy Larson,” my dad used to say, “unless they are liberals — then you can tell them to eat shit and die.” I’m fairly certain he was joking about that, at least in part, but my young mind failed to comprehend the humor. I never once questioned where he stood politically. I knew he identified as a conservative Republican before I reached the age of 5. He was a news junkie and a regular consumer of a conservative radio talk show hosted by Rush Limbaugh, a man who referred to feminists as “Femi-Nazis.” Rush Limbaugh played in the car almost everywhere we went when I was a kid. The term “Femi-Nazi’” weaseled its way into my developing psyche, and later popped-up to wreak havoc on my adult emotions when I realized that I was, indeed, a feminist AND a liberal – the two things my dad hated most.
I went to live with my dad when I was 12 – four years after my parents divorced. I valued that time with him. We watched movies and ate Chinese food. We went to bookstores and shot hoops on the basketball court he built in the back yard. If I came home from school crying because I felt I didn’t fit in, he encouraged me to be proud of myself. If I was upset because a boy didn’t notice me, he said, “if somebody doesn’t like Amy Larson, there is something wrong with them.” He was there to support me through the depths of my depression, letting me know that it was okay to feel depressed. “I know it’s tough, but you are one of the strongest people I know,” he would say. He knew because he had dealt with depression, too, especially after he fought in Vietnam — something he volunteered to do to make his father proud. I felt like he understood me better than any friend or therapist. He was my ally, and I never wanted to disappoint him.
As I got older and collected new experiences, my views of the world started to differ from his. Things didn’t seem quite as black and white. For my dad, things got even more black and white. Daily spurts of Rush Limbaugh turned into marathons of FOX News. Politics and his disdain for liberals became his primary focus. If he stubbed his toe, it was because of the goddamned liberals. When I broke my arm, it was because of the goddamned liberals. If the grocery store was out of diet Pepsi? You guessed it . . . goddamned liberals. Not an hour passed without the goddamned liberals being responsible for something. To say that he leaned to the far right would be a gross understatement.
As an adult, I do my best to avoid discussing politics with my dad. It’s not something I feel I can reason with him about, and I don’t want what time I have left with him to be wrought with anger and hostility. He suspects that I am liberal, but I have neither confirmed nor denied it. When politics come up with him, I always change the subject because the 12-year-old in me still doesn’t want to disappoint him.
But, as much as I want to pretend we are partners in crime, shooting hoops in the back yard, I can no longer stay silent.
If he asks me why I marched, this is what I will tell him:
I marched for healthcare.
I marched for Planned Parenthood and the care it provides to women like me, who have needed healthcare when they couldn’t afford it.
I marched because I value diversity.
I marched for freedom of religion for EVERYONE, including my Muslim friends.
I marched for all victims of sexual assault.
I marched to honor all the people who spoke up for equal rights before me. Without their courage, we would not be where we are today.
I marched for all the times I didn’t speak up for myself because I was afraid, and for all the people who are in that position now.
And mostly, I marched because I can.
When I was a child, I was taught that it was a privilege to live in the United States because we have freedom: freedom to vote, freedom to choose, and freedom to speak. I was taught that brave soldiers fought and died for us to have that freedom. And to not take advantage of that, would be a great disservice to all those who fought for it.
As long as I see people being oppressed, or shushed, I will speak up. As long I as see groups of people who are unfairly targeted, or excluded, I will resist. And, as long as I have the freedom to do so, I will march.