During my recent business/vacation in Hawaii, the decision to unplug from an extremely busy day and drive 90 minutes into Honolulu for this year’s Women’s March was a no-brainer. Honoring the fighting spirit of my angel daughter, Jenna, on what would have been her forty-third birthday would have elicited a resounding “Thank you, Dad” from her. But it was the look in my earth daughter, Stefie’s, eyes that convinced me to put everything aside and walk alongside her and her husband and stand our ground as a family on January 20, 2018.
Last year, my fiancé, Lisette, traveled to Washington, DC with her sister, for the Women’s March. I stayed home to march with my daughter, son-in-law and 50,000 San Diegans. In my 30 years in San Diego, and as someone who had marched on Washington as a college student in the ’60s, I’d still never experienced anything like it. Never had I been a part of a large public protest in which so many diverse groups had come together to protest threats to the hard-fought equal rights, social justice, and freedom we had championed for 50-plus years. The values we instilled in our children—many of whom we were marching with hand in hand—were at risk. And that was not acceptable.
This past Saturday, a year later to the day, many of our worst nightmares had become a reality. Revelations by a courageous free press, special prosecutors, government officials, and representatives brave enough to speak truth to power had pulled back the covers on what may eventually turn out to be some of the most corrupt, inept, and dangerous politics in American history. We realized that complacency and indifference (that is, sitting at home and screaming at the TV while watching CNN, MSNBC, or Fox) was no longer an option. Even though Lisette and I and our (adult) kids were on vacation in Hawaii, thousands of miles from home, we all felt compelled to take to the streets and use our collective voices. I was proud to be marching with my family, and grateful to the organizers for giving us a place to stand tall and speak out about what we believe in.
Driving into the heart of Honolulu, parking our rental car, and walking to the Capitol Building, we were met by a uniquely diverse group of approximately 5,000 marchers. The men, women, and children of the first state to adopt human rights into its constitution, and the birthplace of our last President, welcomed us. Each speaker, from a state senator to a transgender comedian, taught us something important about the politics of social justice, equal rights, and the environment from an indigenous Hawaiian perspective. Being on the Islands not only shed new light on women’s issues, but we learned about local concerns relating to poverty, education, housing and the arts. We also listened to stories about how false reports on incoming missiles last Saturday had terrorized the same island on which thousands had died in Pearl Harbor.
Most important, we were reminded by each speaker that it was not enough just to march. Becoming advocates in our communities, defending human and equal rights, voting and getting others registered to vote, running for office, voicing our opinions, building bridges of understanding, protecting the environment, helping educate the general public on immigration, and turning compassion into action and fighting for what we believe in are all necessary if we are to shed light on truly American values and achieve much-needed and welcome change.
The drive home was relatively quiet. Tired and absorbing the impact of the day, each in our own way, there was an occasional comment about one of the speakers, someone we had met, the “It’s Mueller Time” T-shirts and “Love Not Hate” signs. We shared the hope that, like us, millions of patriotic Americans had chosen to take to the streets across the mainland in cities such as LA, Chicago, Oklahoma City, New York, Washington, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco—not to mention cities outside of the U.S., such as London. There is so much yet to do, we all agreed. The choice to stand tall for America had brought us closer as a family and affirmed our sense of responsibility about what it means to represent “we the people.”
The degree of commitment and “call to action” will be different for each one of us in the days to come. And we will not all agree on everything. We can, however, humble ourselves, listen to one another, and find common ground in the gratitude we have for the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
Photo: Author’s own