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I guess I might be what the Trumpians derisively call a “professional protester.”
Not that I have ever gotten paid for it, mind you. But yes, I have indeed been protesting for at least 50 of my 69 years.
What I noticed at my first post-inaugural protest—The Women’s March on Washington (and the world)—were the seemingly non-professional protesters. We professional protesters have a look. And there were a lot of people who didn’t look like us at the Women’s Marches.
Although the Women’s March was the greatest protest march of my life, I didn’t expect to see these non-professional protester types ever again.
My next protest was exactly one week later. I made a sign and headed for the White House to protest the Muslim travel ban. My BFF (also a “professional protester”) and I didn’t know if many people would show up because the rally was only announced on Facebook the day before. But off we went.
My first surprise was the sheer number of people present. And then there were the people themselves. There were high school kids I knew, families with young children in tow, millennials who could have been otherwise engaged on a Saturday afternoon and older, suburban-looking folks.
From the White House, we marched to the Trump Hotel. And at the hotel, I ran into a conservative Republican friend who said that after having never been to a protest in his life, he had been at two in two days. He was at Dulles Airport the night before after the travel ban was announced.
That’s when I said to my friend, “There might be a silver lining in Trump winning.”
She gave me a decidedly incongruous look.
After the protest, a young woman in her mid-20s stopped to talk to us. “That was so amazing. My generation has been so uninvolved,” she said excitedly. “We have taken our country and democracy for granted. I think this is a kind of a silver lining.” My friend looked at me, then looked at the young woman and said, “That’s what she just said!”
On President’s Day, my protesting BFF and I headed for Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. for the Not My President’s Day Rally. Now I was no longer surprised by the people who showed up. They had become, like us, “professional protesters.” A reporter from NBC interviewed me at the rally and quoted me in his report.
Gayle Fleming, 69, said the rally reminded her of the days when she protested the Vietnam War. She said Trump may have inadvertently spawned a new generation of political activists. “What I’m seeing, especially being as old as I am, is the amazing interest of people who have never been activists,” she said. “This does inspire us. It’s the silver lining in the middle of all this horrible stuff.”
The next day I received an email from a friend that made my day and made me chuckle; always a good thing in these times. This is what it said:
I can’t believe I’m saying this. But it looks like Trump is actually making America great again. Just look at the progress since the election:
>> Unprecedented levels of ongoing civic engagement.
>> Millions of Americans now know who their state and federal representatives are without having to research their names online.
>> Millions of Americans are exercising more. They’re holding signs and marching every week.
>> Alec Baldwin is great again. Everyone has forgotten he was kind of a jerk.
>> Millions of Americans now know how to call their elected officials and know exactly what to say to be effective.
>> Footage of town hall meetings is now entertaining.
>> Millions of people are now correctly spelling words like emoluments, narcissist, fascist, misogynist, holocaust and cognitive dissonance.
>> Everyone knows more about the rise of Hitler than they did last year.
>> Everyone knows more about legislation, branches of government and how checks and balances work.
>> White people in record numbers have learned that racism is not dead.
>> White people in record numbers finally understand that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act.
>> Mike Pence has donated millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood since November 9th.
>> Melissa McCarthy!
>> Travel ban protesters put $24 million into ACLU coffers in just 48 hours allowing them to hire 200 more attorneys. Attorneys are now heroes.
>> Respected news sources are now happily reporting a substantial increase in subscriptions; boon to a struggling industry vital to our democracy.
>> Live streaming congressional hearings is now as popular as the Kardashians.
>> Many have done a massive clean-up of Facebook friends.
>> People are reading classic literature again. Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 increased 10,000% after the inauguration.
>> Now, more than any time in history, everyone believes that anyone can become president—seriously—anyone.
~ Susan Keller
The silver lining is real.
Author: Gayle Fleming
Editor: Caitlin Oriel