Why I Marched on Washington

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Why I Marched on Washington

By Erin Kaihara

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Donald Trump. The name has different connotations for different people. To some, this name conveys the idea of hope and change, but for others, it strikes fear into their hearts. With the past election being one of the more controversial ones in recent history, many were left outraged by the outcome. On Nov. 9, beginning with a Facebook post made in a group titled “Pantsuit Nation,” the idea for the Women’s March on Washington was born.

The plan was for people of all ethnicities, genders, and sexualities to come together to stand up for women’s rights, disabled rights, and other social issues. In total, the Women’s March spanned the entire globe, with marches held on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

Heading into the Women’s March on Washington, I didn’t know what to expect. If I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t even want to go at first. Ever since the election, my mother has been discussing the importance of speaking out non-stop. To her, this march was extremely important; however, it seemed pointless to me. What was it even aiming to accomplish? I understood why people were upset with the outcome of the election, but what was marching going to do? You’re just marching; it’s not like you’re going to accomplish any real change.

In the days leading up to the march, I felt the exact same way I had for the past several months. Others around me kept telling me how jealous they were that I was getting to go to D.C. and how important these issues were. I kept saying I understood how important the movement is, but I never truly believed it. I hoped that if I kept repeating it enough, I would eventually believe it. I didn’t.

The first moment I realized how impressive this march would be was during the bus ride I took to D.C. Every three hours or so, the bus was forced to stop for bathroom breaks and for the drivers to take a break. At the first rest stop, there were maybe three or four other coach buses parked in the parking lot. The closer we got to D.C., the number of busses I saw increased drastically. By the end, there were at least 13 other coach buses at each rest stop. Considering each bus holds around 50 people, there must have been at least 650 people in one rest stop alone. Imagine that. We were still about two hours away, but already a giant crowd was forming.

As soon as I entered Washington D.C., I was greeted by a sea of pink. Everywhere I looked, there were countless numbers of people wearing either the pink “pussy” hat or pink apparel. As the bus was driving around the city, the women and men walking towards the march kept waving and cheering at us. Already, I could sense the unity that would later become even more extremely apparent.

Throughout the course of the day, I was constantly astounded by how many people there were. The closer and closer I got to the front, the bigger the crowd got. At a few points, there wasn’t any real marching going on; the streets were so congested that nobody could move. It even got to the point where the police had to widen the barriers to create more space for the marchers. I was so far away from the actual stage, I couldn’t even see the speakers on the projectors. People were climbing on top of food trucks and trees in an attempt to get a better view of everything. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. I knew, purely based on the numbers, that this march would make headlines all across the country.

I know that there are people out there don’t agree with me politically, and that’s fine, because I respect your opinion. There’s nothing wrong with having a difference in opinion; it’s the way that we discuss issues that matters. It seems to me that whenever people talk “politics,” there are two different sides yelling about two different opinions and not getting a whole lot done. When this happens, both sides try to change the beliefs of the other side to make them agree. The reality of the situation is that this is never going to happen. You can’t just change someone else’s beliefs by yelling at or insulting them. In order for democracy to work, there must be civil discussions about the issues.

Sometime during the march I overheard a conversation between two women. One was middle-aged, while the other one was on the older side. It became obvious very quickly that these two women were having a disagreement, and I was only able to hear a snippet of the conversation, but that little piece of dialogue stuck with me for the remainder of the day. The younger woman said to the older woman, “While I don’t personally agree with you, I understand why you think the way you do. I don’t understand why you got 1+1 to equal 2, but given your circumstance, I respect your opinion.” Think about that for a second. These women weren’t having a giant argument on the sidewalk; they were having a civil discussion. This is how politics should be. We can’t belittle others just because they don’t have the same beliefs we do. That’s not what this country is about. America should be about acceptance.

For me, participating in the march has changed my life forever. At the time of the election, I was only 17, which meant I wasn’t able to vote. That made me feel as though my opinion didn’t really matter. If I couldn’t vote, how else was I supposed to make myself heard? After this march, I realize there are so many different ways for our voices to be heard. Just because you’re not of legal age to vote, it doesn’t make your opinion any less valid. You have a voice for a reason, so use it.

Now here comes the real question: Why should you care? Despite there being another march in Chicago, as high schoolers in the state of Illinois, this demonstration had no tangible effects on our lives. So what’s the point? The main ideas to get away from this experience, I think, are to let your voice be heard because it matters, and you can create change.

In so many places around the world, people don’t have the freedoms that we have here in America. You have freedom of speech, so don’t take it for granted. By voicing your opinions, you can make change occur. If you don’t like the way something is turning out, do something to change it. Become involved. I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true. Look at this march. Just one Facebook post evolved into a worldwide movement. What started off with one person blossomed into a movement with an estimated three million participants.

That’s why I marched. Why will you?