Change is often not as inevitable as we would like. It seems, sometimes, to a generation enjoying as a birthright civic and political privileges which our forefathers could have only dreamed, that much of our fighting is done. The Civil Rights Movement won, women can vote, we are no longer sending boys to Vietnam and abortion is legal. The truth that this generation is facing now, and perhaps for the first time with the rise of Trump and his brand of reactionary ultra-conservatism and knee-jerk nationalistic anti-politics, is that these achievements can be rolled back in even shorter time than they could be won.
Already, executive orders have launched attacks on women’s bodies, roaring out of a cradle of medieval ideologies; our long-sought and long-fought, semi-amicable economic partnership with China is being immolated so our President can puff up his chest. Our health care, upon which millions of Americans so desperately rely, has been trashed in the name of false reasoning and propagandist fake economics — mostly because its creator was a black Democrat. The new administration has convinced its zealots that our press is our pariah.
Last Saturday, a million women across the country marched for the protection of their rights, their health care, their futures, their children’s futures, their first amendment rights, their equal protection under the law, the sanctity of their marriage and the equality of their gender. They marched for the discernible and tangible future of a nation that, for eight years, seemed to seek so freely and so desperately to be comparable to its first-world contemporaries, both in the quality of life of its citizens and the opportunity of its children. Nothing could crush them. Perhaps some Trumpians showed up to the inauguration in USA scarves and Make America Great Again hats; the rest of the nation, however, was hot, angry, livid, piercing, betrayed, scared, hopeful, determined and pensive — waiting to march.
And we must not forget it. Students, especially, turned out in droves to women’s marches across the nation, in every city. If we are to believe, as our parents once did, that our generation will be the one to actively inherit the nation, we too must rejoice in the responsibility to take care of it. We must march, as we did, and we must not forget that we must march again, and again and again. Do not forget the Women’s March; take real, tangible and important action in politics policy, the local community and civic life. Call your representatives. Petition your councilmen and women, and never allow the voice of the people to be drained out by the rhetoric of men who still believe that their race is superior and their wives should be ironing clothes.
What if the French third estate had stopped after Bastille Day? What if the revolutionaries had hung up their hats, quartered the soldiers and paid their blood in taxes? What if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement for civil rights had ended at Selma? What if Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been satisfied with passive representation? What if, throughout the course of world history, nobody had stood up and said, “No” — where would we be?
The Women’s March is a drop in the ocean if it doesn’t continue. These are the congressional Republicans who were not moved by black children dying in the streets; they were not moved by the human necessity of gay Americans to finally behold equal rights; they were not moved when children were murdered in Newtown or when the uninsured and the unemployed and the homeless starved in their streets, in their towns and in their states; make no mistake, they will not be moved by the Women’s March — unless the Women’s March represents a great change in our political history, a time in which the 54 percent of this country that did not want Donald Trump ever to be called “President” unleashed the full power and force of the will of the people. Our free press is being threatened by the very man who seeks to benefit if and when it dies. The sanctity of our democracy is being threatened by a regime that saw fit to allow a foreign enemy state to influence our sovereign elections. The freedoms of our daughters are being erased before our very eyes. Who will passively and lamely watch them go — and who will stand in the way? If our generation has encountered its fight, which I believe it has, that is the question. That is what we must know.
To be angry, to complain, to scream and shout is one thing — it’s natural, it’s warranted and it’s good. But the real work is not glamorous. It is not what they will make movies about. It is not beautiful or inspiring. But it is the only thing that will make change. To plan, to march, to protest, to petition, to call, to wait, to read constantly, to think constantly and to be aware and focused and ready — that is what makes the dreams of a nation become the reality of the state.
Lily Vaughan is a sophomore majoring in history and political science. Her column, “Playing Politics,” runs every Friday.