January came in with a bang. Before the month was halfway through, one person I love had been diagnosed with cancer, two had been hospitalized with heart problems, and one had died.
It’s been draining but I’m taking it in stride. And plenty of good things have happened, too, so there is balance. I’m continuing to do my work, to help where I can, and to take good care of myself by going to the gym, eating well and setting priorities.
One thing that I intentionally dropped to the bottom of my priority list was reading the news. The stress that washes over me once or twice a week (at least) when I read about the words and actions of our representatives in Washington D.C. was something I could let go of – just until the rest of my life settled down a bit.
But then … The “shithole” comment.
There was no escaping that one. It was the icing on the cake of the past two weeks. Suddenly, in between sympathy cards and visits to the hospital, and work deadlines, I was back at it. Reading voraciously, trying to piece together the truth of what happened, the defensive maneuvers of the president’s handlers and the reactions worldwide to Trump’s insulting and racist commentary on Haitians, El Salvadorians, Nigerians, and all African nations.
Last year, during the Women’s March, I was in Panama, a Latin American country I have grown to love. I obsessively watched coverage on my laptop and felt heartened by the astonishing numbers of people, worldwide, who were protesting.
This year, I’m going. I bought a pink hat for the Seattle Women’s March 2.0 this coming Saturday. I contacted friends, reminding them in case they didn’t know or forgot about the march and encouraged my marina neighbors to go.
And then, I made soup. I had bought groceries to make dinner for friends who cancelled at the last minute. Since I had all the ingredients, I decided to cook anyway. I turned on some music, opened up the boat on a delightfully sunny and mild afternoon, and made soup. I chopped, diced, stirred, seasoned, tasted. And danced to the music. It was the perfect medicine.
That and knowing that the Women’s March is happening this weekend. I want to get out there and be with people who are as appalled as I am and are doing something about it.
It’s easy for those of us who live in Queen Anne or Magnolia, or, for that matter, in any of the rapidly gentrifying Seattle neighborhoods, to forget about what is going on in the other Washington. Or to ignore it. Or to wait for Robert Mueller to fix it.
But we really don’t have that luxury. Each time the president crosses yet another line, as he did with the “shithole” comment, I think, “This is it. This is the one that is going to take him down.”
And then — it doesn’t.
And then, yet again, he does or says something else that makes my head explode. What are the people we have elected, whose salaries we pay, who work for us, doing with their time? How are they letting this go on? And on? And on?
My husband is a hard-core activist from back in the day. He claims that the only way to change things is to get out in the streets and make noise. Because the people in Washington are not going to do it for us. It’s up to us, he insists.
Some of our friends think the people on top are impervious to our voices and actions. That we can’t really touch them. Well, if we don’t try, then that will certainly be our legacy.
In looking at some photos from last year’s march, a sign that resonated was, “Ugh. Where do I even start?” If any of the things that have gone on in the last year have raised your hackles, then come on out on Saturday. To name a few:
Ugh, indeed. Where to start? Even more pressing for me is the question, “Where does it end?” And what’s it gonna take to get us out in the streets?
Reading The Guardian after Trump’s “shithole” remarks, I came across an interview of Blessing Dlamini, a 45-year-old administrative assistant working in a business neighborhood in Johannesburg, South Africa. Trump’s words, said Dlamini, came as “no surprise.” In the interview, Dlamini added, “He has shown the world he is a racist. We should just block him from our thoughts.”
I want to be like that. I want to combat strife with peace. But more effective at this time, in this situation, will be to make noise and march and say, “ENOUGH! NO MORE!”
The march will be peaceful. It’s power will be in the numbers. Please join me. If you have plans, cancel them. This is too important. Here are the details:
Saturday, January 20
Cal Anderson Park (march ends at Seattle Center)
Afterwards, go home and make some soup. And love your family and your friends.
IRENE PANKE HOPKINS (irenehopkins.com) is a freelance writer and essayist. Her work has most recently appeared in Real Simple and 48° North.