The election (and now, beyond) has been nasty, on both sides of the aisle. My Facebook feed makes me sad. Name calling, unfriending, and an inability, or at least unwillingness to civilly listen to opposing views, come from both my conservative and my liberal friends. I know my conservative friends are not the uncaring monsters the left describes, and I know my liberal friends are not the crybabies the right-wingers assert.
I always vote, but I usually avoid political discussions. The other day, however, I had a friend text me, and we had a one-on-one, private discussion about what we've been observing on social media and about the Women's March in particular. Our conversation really got me thinking. My mind churned on the topic. My dreams revolved around politics. (I mean my literal, middle-of-the-night dreams, not dreams of the Dr. King variety.) One of my friend's statements really stood out to me: "With all this talk of inclusiveness, there doesn't seem to be a place where I fit in."
I admit, though I had heard about the Women's March, I had not taken the time to read their platform. From news reports, I had gathered the Women's March was an anti-Trump demonstration, and that they were speaking out against some of his statements and proposed policies. Even though I am a woman, even though I didn't vote for Trump, and even though there are some "Unity Principles" in the Women's March platform that seem self-evident, as I read through their complete platform, I realized that I didn't agree with everything. The "Mission & Vision" page statement sounded reasonable:
We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country."Vibrant and diverse" excludes a vast segment of society, though--anyone who is opposed to abortion might have a problem with the Reproductive Rights platform, for example:
We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.Yes, there is attraction in the whole, "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar," mentality. Women are strong, and can be a huge force for good in the world. Being able to stand up for kindness and compassion is noble. There is something exciting about being part of something bigger than yourself. I suspect more than one marcher thought of women's suffrage movements of the past as they were demonstrating.
However, the Women's March wasn't just tackling one issue; it was taking on a whole slew. On the abortion platform alone, I would excuse myself from participation. Does this make me someone who doesn't care about people with disabilities? I would beg to differ, though some Facebook posts would make that jump.
So, what can I, my friend, and others who feel excluded do? First of all, we can refuse to get caught up in the name-calling. We can vote, and if we choose to get involved in various issues, we can contact our senators and representatives to make our opinions heard. Most importantly, in our daily lives, we can live according to our convictions. Our biggest impact probably won't come on some huge national scale, but in our own homes and neighborhoods. We can teach our children kindness, and we can demonstrate the same. We can volunteer our time. We can listen to the lonely or lend a shoulder to the sad. With small and simple acts, we can serve those around us. As we do so, we will find that we do fit in in all the important ways.