This is what democracy looks like – Women’s March

By Carol / January 25, 2017 /

Marching to support a cause is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. The suffragettes marched more than 100 years ago to secure the vote for women. Civil rights activists marched in the 1960s to raise awareness of the inequities suffered by African Americans. The LGBT community rose up in the 1970s.

This marcher got to the core of a problem we have in Iowa and nationally – one group trying to force their idea of rights on others.

Achieving human rights is not a one-and-done deal. Each right is fought for. And once achieved, there’s no guarantee you’ll keep those rights. If it were not so, we would not be here in 2017 still marching for those same rights.

On Saturday, I joined more than 20,000 women, men, and children for the Women’s March in Des Moines. We united in spirit with the millions who marched worldwide in support of a full range of human rights.

It took a while for my friend and I to find each other in the crowd.

The reasons why people marched varied. The messages they carried, equally so.

I’ve been on the political sidelines my whole life. I’ve let others carry the load. This past year, though, I’ve seen how easily rights can be trampled on. How people are marginalized and dismissed. I’ve seen us going back – and not in a good way.

A young boy carried his hope for the march.

I elected to get up off the couch and engage. I didn’t realize what an empowering experience the march would be. Speakers roared into microphones, got us chanting, shared their stories, inspired.

When we finally marched around the Capitol grounds, I was reminded of being the slowest person in a marathon, the one who waits a half hour to even start running. In our case, there were so many people, the first people were back at the starting point before the last people began.

Marchers wrap the entire Iowa State Capitol grounds.

Participating in one of the fundamental rights of our democracy – the first amendment rights to assembly and free speech – was a powerful rush. Where will this all lead? Time will tell.

When I woke up a couple of days after the march with the words of the State of Iowa motto running through my brain, I knew I was in the right place, doing the right thing.

“Our liberties we prize. Our rights we must maintain.”

Ah, democracy. Did you march? What was your experience? If you didn’t march, what was your reaction?

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  1. Merril Smith on January 26, 2017 at 5:54 am

    I am so enjoying reading my friends’ posts about their experiences at marches in Washington and in many other places. Thanks for sharing yours, Carol. I also felt the call and need to do something and to be a part of this incredible movement to resist. I felt encouraged and energized by seeing so many who feel the same way. Now, as the week has gone on with DT’s pronouncements, I am feeling discouraged. But I’ll continue to call senators and representatives, send postcards, and encourage others to resist.

    Iowa has a great motto!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 26, 2017 at 8:05 am

      I agree, Merril. Reading about marches worldwide has been inspiring. Now, we need to keep the faith. The marching was the easy part, proving again that ‘once and done’ doesn’t apply to maintaining our rights. Continuing to make our voices heard time and again will take commitment.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

    I didn’t march, but I cheered, and will continue to do so. And I will weep as another wall is about to go up, in our democratic neighbour’s back yard. How is this even possible? There were marches in Canada too and all over the world. We shall overcome!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 26, 2017 at 9:53 am

      We could hear cheers like yours from around the world, Elfrieda. It was so encouraging. We will see what happens with the wall. The money has to come from somewhere, and last night President Trump wasn’t clear.

  3. Nan Johnson on January 26, 2017 at 9:18 am

    November’s election motivated me to march with thousands in St. Louis. The best part was having my daughter with me; together we wondered how my grandmother felt in 1920 when women gained the right to vote. The worst part was hearing the backlash afterwards; the criticism from other women felt particularly harsh and I felt misunderstood. It unsettled me so much that I am resolved to listen carefully to those who appear to be the opposition with the intent of finding common ground somewhere. I liked the young boy’s sign – out of the mouths of babes, as they say.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 26, 2017 at 9:51 am

      I was delighted to see so many children at the Des Moines march. Learning early to be active in democracy. I hear you about the criticism, Nan. In a letter to the editor today, a Conservative woman said she didn’t go because she knew she wouldn’t be welcome because her POV would not fit. I was sorry to hear that. Personally, I felt there were so many different topics discussed at our march, anyone could have found a place. But that’s me, and I was with my crowd. But as the little boy’s sign – and you – say, we have to listen to each other when we talk. If we can’t get to that point, we will only see further division in our future.

      • Nan Johnson on January 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        I’m sorry, too, that the conservative woman in the newspaper didn’t feel welcome. I will admit being a bit taken aback by some of the signs I saw! I had to remind myself that being offended by the way it was expressed didn’t mean I disagreed with the message. I wonder if the message gets overshadowed by the delivery sometimes, and polarizes us when we needn’t be. What I thought was clever and funny might have offended someone else and then communication breaks down.

        • Carol Bodensteiner on January 27, 2017 at 9:44 am

          The conversations will be difficult in any case, and name-calling and offensive language don’t help. I’ve heard since the march that the D.C. organizers specifically told Pro Life people not to come. I don’t know how that was communicated (if for certain it was), but in my opinion, if it happened, it’s unfortunate. The march was about so many things and the only way we make progress is to keep talking with each other.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on January 31, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Carol — I’m a day late and a dollar short because during my 3-month sabbatical, I’m only online Tuesdays when I go to the library (no internet connection where I’m staying). I simply wanted to let you know that I appreciate and resonate with this post.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 31, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      Thank you for your comment, and support, Laurie. I hope your sabbatical is productive – however you define that. What an interesting time to be disconnected from the Internet.

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