Travelling south yesterday, the sun went in. I sat on the train with a sense of dis-ease in the pit of my stomach, feeling literally and viscerally that I was heading in the wrong direction. As I’d left Waterloo station, people had begun gathering in the centre of London to join in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington DC, and with other similar protests all over the US and around the world. One day after Trump’s inauguration, women, men and children were standing up and making noise directed against all the harmful and horrifying things that Trump represents: racism, sexism, capitalism, isolationism, anti-environmentalism.
I wanted to be part of this noise but had made plans several weeks earlier to join my elderly mother in East Devon. I hadn’t noticed the clash of dates and by the time I did, it was too late. So I boarded the train, read the news and observed my thoughts and feelings. I knew, sadly, that this would be just one protest of many and that there would be plenty I would be attending in the future. My deep emotional response wasn’t so much about not being present on this occasion, although that was definitely a part of it; first and foremost, it was an indication of how strongly I was feeling the pull to act, to express hope by taking part, hope in the face of this rising, global populist tide of the right.
Later in the evening, settled in the holiday home my mum has rented near the sea, we watched the news together and saw reports of the day’s worldwide demonstrations. Afterwards, we discussed the worth of them. My mum quoted the global peace rallies of 2003, saying they hadn’t made a difference. I quoted Rebecca Solnit, who I mentioned in my previous blog, and whose book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possiblities, I am currently reading.
Worthwhile reading, & the importance of memory
In this book, Solnit makes many salient points in discussing why activism is necessary and useful, regardless of whether there is a positive outcome that can be directly linked to a particular protest. One of them is about the importance of memory:
“It’s important to ask not only what those moments produced in the long run but what they were in their heyday. If people find themselves living in a world in which some hopes are realized and some joys are incandescent and some boundaries between individuals and groups are lowered, even for an hour or a day or several months, that matters. Memory of joy and liberation can become a navigational tool, an identity, a gift”.
Another point made by Solnit is about the unknowable effect in the future of what we’re doing here and now. She quotes how a small group from Women Strike for Peace stood in the rain in front of the White House in 1963 and inspired at that moment Dr. Benjamin Spock, who later became one of the most high-profile activists on the issue of nuclear testing.
The heart of the matter
I’m with Solnit. What we do matters. And we’re always doing. So taking care over what we do, doing the best we possibly can and doing as much of the best we can with our own particular resources, seems the only way. I’m putting my best foot forward, marching onwards, protesting peacefully but loudly, clearly and with conscience.