By Judy Dean
When I slipped into my Shady Grove-bound Metro seat my knees were throbbing and I was starting to dream about the gin and tonic waiting for me at home. I’d been on my feet for over seven hours, much of it in 90-degree heat. The 2017 Peoples Climate March was over and I was 100% spent.
The guy sitting next to me glanced up from his phone and asked, “Marching?” I’d taken off my baseball cap and my sweaty hair stood up in spikes. I’m sure I smelled less than fresh. “Yep. It was great but it feels good to sit down.”
He asked me what today’s march was about. He lived a couple blocks from the Capitol and worked for the government but had lost track of the protests. “There’s a march every weekend,” he said with a long-suffering sigh. “We’re marched out.”
I asked if he’d ever participated in one and he looked at me with surprise. “Well, no, but I’ve certainly seen my share of them! Hey, if you think marching will do any good, more power to you!” I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that but I recognized a buzz-kill when I heard one. We rode the rest of the way in silence.
I thought about the 200,000+ people I’d just shared Pennsylvania Avenue with. The crowd was twice as large as predicted and fired up. Families, scientists, religious groups, indigenous people, college students, energy and ecology interests, people of all ages, colors, and persuasions. Being in the middle of it was thrilling and empowering. If we can’t come together to fight for our planet, what in heaven’s name can we come together for? The climate (as we couldn't fail to notice in the scorching heat) needs our help now.
My seatmate’s observational apathy, I realized, is precisely the thing that drives me nuts about the public response to Trump’s presidency. While many people are standing up and fighting hard for causes that matter, many more are watching with morbid fascination as if this nightmare is playing out someplace else. There’s a weird, “how bad can it get?” sense of suspense, or, worse yet, a “let’s give the guy a chance!” rebuke to protestors, as if we’re being uncivil to a basically decent guy.
Will marching (or anything else we're frantically trying) actually do any good? My Metro buddy hit a nerve there. Our new president (on his 100th day in office) has me seriously worried about nuclear war, a chill I haven’t felt in 40 years. What are we actually accomplishing? I’m not sure, but as far as I’m concerned, doing nothing is not an option. To quote my new friend, “Hey, if you think marching will do any good, more power to you.”