Yesterday my husband, daughter, and I joined approximately ten-thousand men and women from across Maine as they peacefully protested in Portland in solidarity with people around the globe in their advocacy for the rights of women, LGBTQIA, immigrants, the disabled, and other minority groups. My nine-month-old daughter doesn’t know it yet, but the divisive election season has left all of these groups vulnerable.
As a former teacher, I have had the great privilege of instructing young adults from all walks of life and places from around the globe. During this march, I thought of the most vulnerable, including gay and lesbian students, disabled students, and students who had recently immigrated. I held in my mind the angry, tear-stained face of a former student, who stayed after school to describe how she was accosted in the street by a middle age Caucasian man in Lewiston who stated that she should, “Go back to where she came from,” on her way home from school. Yet, as a first-generation American who was born shortly after her parents immigrated, the place she came from is here.
I walked thinking of the aged face of an elderly relative. She had the misfortune to be born in a time when contraceptives were not widely available, sexual education was nearly nonexistent, premarital pregnancies were socially unacceptable, and abortion was illegal. During her youth, she crossed the border between the United States and Mexico to obtain an abortion – an event that caused her shame throughout her life.
I marched for summers spent working in my mother’s organic gardens and the lessons she taught me about being a good steward of the earth. Although she voted for the Trump-Pence ticket, I know that on some level she is as disturbed about the current administration’s environmental stance as I am, specifically their devotion to coal and their denial of global warming. I hope to be able to pass on a pristine planet and similar lessons to my own daughter.
I rallied with my daughter in my arms, so the world will know that her body is her own. No person has the right to criticize it, or call her “Ms. Piggy,” if doesn’t conform to the traditional definition of beauty. No individual can touch it without her given permission, no matter how rich or powerful.
Many people have commented that the march was futile. After all, the election is over. However, as I gazed at the Muslim woman marching near me with her young son and daughter and at the same sex couple at the end of the march who were holding hands and cheering on the protesters as tears rolled down their cheeks, I couldn’t help but feel that we had already achieved something. Though it may seem that the world rejects and hates you, in this time and in this space, you belong and you are loved.