love trumps hate: my first protest experience


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Before:

Right now I am safe and warm behind the glass windows of The Coffee Ethic. I hold the warm caramel latte with both hands and look out on Park Central Square. There are the formerly colorful trees of autumn that have just lost their leaves. But there also is the Christmas tree that they just put up last night. People are gathering out there. Slowly, more and more people are trickling onto the old bricks that form the familiar Park Central Square. I’m so excited to experience my first peace rally, I think, but then I notice the six police officers on the left side. They are holding those long sticks that you see cops holding in documentaries about the bloody civil rights marches of the 1960’s and the race riots of the 1980’s. I’m not scared of the police officers, of course, I’m so grateful that they are there to protect the peaceful protesters that are gathering. But seeing them there just makes it suddenly seem so very real. It’s not a game. The cops stand off on the side, alone. Talking together. I’m scared for them. I’m scared for the people about to protest. For us. There are guys with guitars now. There are news crews. Older looking couples in professional looking attire. College kids in sweatshirts and jeans. I look out and I’m filled with a warm pride for my city. For what we are about to do.

After:

I was part of my first peace rally today. There were so many people there. So many kinds of people. Little kids in their puffy coats and knit beanies with colorful pom-poms on top, their mothers and fathers squeezing their hands tightly. The older woman standing next to me with her designer handbag and expensive smelling perfume became really emotional and so we, the people surrounding her, took turns embracing her. I hugged her and then she turned to the African American man standing next to me and they hugged. Both sets of eyes closed tight, lots of sniffling because of the cold but also because of the tears. There were the four elderly women bundled up and sitting on the little brick wall that borders Park Central Square. There was a beautiful irony in the fact that I, with no makeup on, stood beside a teenage girl with the fanciest contour and an elaborate cat-eye. Both so different but both women; both standing in solidarity.

“What’s the point of it?” my friends and family asked me.

“He’s already president. You have to accept that.”

“God put him in power for a reason; you have to realize that.”

“Is it a Trump-bashing, hate rally, you’re going to?”

The point of it? To show solidarity and love for all of the persecuted people groups and races that Trump and his party have marginalized. Today, a disabled woman who had neither legs nor arms, spoke of her fears in a country now under the rule of a man who had mocked a disabled reporter. She said, “If I am choosing to stand up [this induced a laugh from the crowd] against injustice then you can too.” A young woman of Israeli and African heritage spoke of how she is perceived as “pretty for a mixed girl.” She told the story of how a day after the election, a man had said, “This is my country. You’re gonna have to leave. I won the election.” She cried as she spoke of her 6 year old sister and her hopes that her sister could one day look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful,” and learn to love her curly hair and caramel painted skin.

 The point of this peace rally was not to attack Donald Trump. The point of this peace rally was not to attack the people who voted for him. The point was to stand against the hurtful things Trump has said about women and people of color and Hispanics and immigrants and disabled people. The point was to stand together and pledge to love each other, no matter the religion, no matter the gender, no matter the race, no matter the political affiliation, and no matter the sexual orientation.

He’s already president! God put him in power for a reason! This statement is a “cop-out.” Do I believe God has a sovereign plan for this nation? Yes. Obviously. But just because God has put a man in power does not mean that we, as Christians, are given a free pass to sit on our butts and watch hate and bigotry take control of our nation. What if Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, had said to his congregation, “God’s in control. We should just accept the fact that our government persecutes and oppresses us, as people of color”? Just because God is in control does not give us an excuse to be silent in the face of injustice. Why would God give his children the ability to write, and to take photos, and to speak, if not to create positive change?

Was it a Trump-bashing, hate rally? No. It was anything but that. I felt so surrounded by love and inclusion and a pervasive peacefulness. When three diesel trucks with American and Confederate flags and huge “Trump/Pence 2016” signs began circling Park Central Square, a woman with a sign that said “Free Hugs,” began running alongside the trucks. When a pro-Trump, counter protester ran onto the stage with a sign that read “We won! #trumpnation” and tried to assault the speaker, the crowd surged forward and spilled onto the stage to surround her. She did not falter for a minute. We formed a protective circle around her as she recited the words to Maya Angelou’s famous poem, “Still I Rise.”

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

 

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

 

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.

 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Maya Angelou: Copyright 1978

This peace rally will forever remain one of my most treasured memories. It was freezing cold but the warmth that exuded from all of the souls around me was indescribable. I may have shed a few tears during the Maya Angelou recitation but my favorite moment of the event was when one of the musicians led the crowd in Woody Guthrie’s famous folk song, “This Land Is Your Land.” I think one of the common misconceptions surrounding the political left is that they don’t “love America.” That they aren’t “patriotic.” But today, our heartfelt rendering of this song proved sincerely proved otherwise. However, our love is not a blind love. America has many problems. America has much to overcome. But together, love can trump hate. Together we will rise.

This land is your land. This land is my land

From California to the New York island;

From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and Me.

 

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,

I saw above me that endless skyway:

I saw below me that golden valley:

This land was made for you and me.

 

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps

To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;

And all around me a voice was sounding:

This land was made for you and me.

 

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,

And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,

As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:

This land was made for you and me.

 

As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”

But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,

That side was made for you and me.

 

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,

By the relief office I seen my people;

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?

 

Nobody living can ever stop me,

As I go walking that freedom highway;

Nobody living can ever make me turn back

This land was made for you and me.

Woody Guthrie: Copyright 1956


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“fuhrer trump: not my america”
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“let’s talk about solutions”
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“free hugs”
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a mother and daughter
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we rushed onto the platform to protect the speaker from a counter-protester
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“not my role model”
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both young and old: united in solidarity
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a disabled woman speaks candidly about her fears

 

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