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Persist and resist with the Women's March



"Resistance is futile," intoned the Borg, a malevolent race encountered by the Starship Enterprise.

Well, it's been a Borg year, starting with corrosive dread (as poet Kevin Clark puts it) following the election, and continuing day after day after day with attacks on civil rights, voting rights, immigrants, women's health, reproductive rights, health care, and the environment.

Now, the White House and Republican ranks in Congress have passed a bill that institutionalizes tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. Even New Times conservative columnist Al Fonzi declares: "This [tax] package is the largest transfer of wealth from 'Main Street' to 'Wall Street' in my lifetime."

It's exhausting to keep up on all the ways in which this administration devalues our moral and ethical standards every day, and rolls back regulatory protections that safeguard the health and welfare of individuals, our society, and the environment.

After a year, we have to ask, "Is resistance futile?"

Wind back to Jan. 21, 2017, when our collective corrosive dread led to the Women's March, drawing an estimated 5 million participants in the U.S. and around the world, including 10,000 here in San Luis Obispo. By all accounts, this was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.

While my husband marched on Higuera Street, my daughter and I marched on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., My election-induced miasma started to lift when we boarded the plane in Phoenix and found that 98 percent of the passengers were women marchers.

Our seatmate, a smartly dressed Republican in her early 70s, said, "I had to come." I often find myself telling her story. She recounted an experience that served as a lifelong moral touchstone.

At 8 years old, she went to a Girl Scout camp in Texas that was integrated for the first time. On an overnight horseback ride, menacing white men in pickups with rifles appeared. The girls spent the night huddled in a local park with police officers guarding them.

Our seatmate said, "I vowed I'd never feel that kind of shame again."

These were the kinds of stories and voices we heard in the nation's capital, in San Luis Obispo, and across the globe. What was the point? What did this action, these voices generate?

Having cut his resistance teeth on civil rights and the Vietnam protests, my husband says today, "I take hope from the cultural progress we've made over my lifetime." Likewise, essayist Rebecca Solnit stated, "Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious."

I submit that one of the more immediate ripples of the Women's March was catalyzing the landslide #MeToo movement. We can thank Harvey Weinstein, of course, but when women are empowered to use their voices, well, the mighty can fall.

Like Judge Roy Moore, alleged pedophile and philistine candidate for the Senate from Alabama, who just lost to Doug Jones, the first Democrat to fill the position in 25 years. It may seem self-evident that the electorate would resist a man who recently stated that America was great back in the day when whites held slaves. But it was a close vote, and we should remember that resistance, activism, and voting, most especially by black women, brought about the Democratic victory.

Here's a longstanding local example: Mothers for Peace came together in 1969 to take action against the Vietnam War. For the last 42 years, they have served as a principal watchdog of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Using legal channels, including 25 legal challenges since the meltdown of the Fukushima plant in Japan, Mothers for Peace have stood their ground, raised their voices, and helped safeguard our community. As they state: "Perseverance is [our] strong suit."

The women behind the Women's March are nothing if not perseverant. For local organizer Terry Parry, the action was "born out of disbelief, grief, and hopelessness," but since the Trump inauguration, the San Luis Obispo group catapulted into an ongoing movement to bring rapid response to damaging policies.

"The first of these was the Muslim travel ban," Parry said. "We organized a demonstration that drew hundreds within a day's notice. That crystalized the mission of Women's March San Luis Obispo [WMSLO]: We would provide a way for the community to assemble, show resistance, take action, and feel support."

To mark a year of continued resistance, WMSLO is hosting a major event on Jan. 20. "Our purpose for this day," Parry emphasized, "is not to march this year, but to re-energize, motivate, and celebrate all that has been accomplished in 2017."

Women, men, children, young, old—ALL—are invited to assemble at Mission Plaza from 12 to 4 p.m. Parry noted, "The rally will speak to unity principles, which include civil rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, and the environment.

"We will have musicians, poets, and singers, who will accent these principles through the lens of their art. It is going to be a powerful day of renewal."

Raise your voice. Commit to persist and resist.

For more information on WMSLO and the Jan. 20 rally, see womensmarchslo.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/WomensMarchSLO/. Δ

Amy Hewes is actively involved in grassroots political action. Send comments through the editor at[email protected].

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