Holding a Mirror Against the Women’s March

I recall vividly the embarrassment and shame I felt the night, and subsequent days after, Donald Trump won the general election. Initially, the embarrassment had to do with America — or the supposed idea of American Exceptionalism — and what it said about us to the rest of the world that this man got elected President. But the real shame didn’t come until the day after when I went in to work.

I passed the front desk, where some middle-aged brown guy making $10 an hour greeted me on my way in. I walked down the football-field-long hall and crossed paths with several of the cooks, most foreign, most can’t speak a word of English, earning minimum wage. I clocked in and headed to the floor, went through my pre-shift meeting with a collection of Asian and hispanic and black dealers.

It was the first time I remember actually feeling guilty for being white. Since Donald Trump had just been elected — and since he campaigned as anti- just about every color except for white — I couldn’t shake the awful thought that it was my people who were responsible for this. There is a lot of cheap labor at the casino I work at, so it isn’t remarkably surprising to know that a majority of the workers are either foreign or colored (but usually both). And I, as a white guy, felt the burden of an entire race, even though Trump is the furthest thing from what I stand for.

Shortly thereafter I went through a phase, brief as it was, where I railed against Trump every chance I got, cheered on the Not My President protests, and even gave in to some of the Russia hysteria. I did these things, because at the time I thought they were the right things to do. It felt like all the available information led to those specific conclusions. But if the last year offers any clarity, it now seems more like I did those things because they were the popular things. I know this, because the narratives I bought into then are the same narratives being implemented today. Something is wrong with that picture.

Last Saturday people all over the world participated in the Women’s March, which for a second straight year was a general protest of the President. Last year it was, more visibly, a response to Conservative’s wanting to defund Planned Parenthood. Based on Trump’s anti-women rhetoric on the campaign trail, all the way to his “Grab ’em by the pussy” comment that came to light, it seemed like an appropriate time to push back.

It’s at this juncture where it has to be said: I will never be against anyone who protests. So long as they aren’t advocating for hate, or inequality, who am I to say they shouldn’t exercise their Constitutional right?

The problem I have with the Women’s March isn’t that I don’t believe in the message; it’s that there was no message. It was too general. Some marched for legitimate causes — like Planned Parenthood, or equal pay — and some were just there because Donald Trump is extremely unpopular, and being against him (especially publicly) is extremely easy. It’s the low-hanging fruit of our epoch.

My only argument is: if you don’t march for something, you march for nothing. From my bird’s eye view there is nothing in between.

It’s the same reason the NFL protests, as a whole, lost so much steam as the season plowed onward. While Colin Kaepernick had a very specific cause, and sound reasoning, for why he chose to kneel during the National Anthem, by midyear the league had bastardized his original idea. Instead of kneeling, many teams began linking arms as a sign of “unity,” which meant, at best, very little. Protests are supposed to make people feel uncomfortable. Some general bullshit “unity” means absolutely nothing unless there is an idea to unite behind.

The Women’s March is a good idea. It’s becoming a tradition in the United States that’s worth having, regardless of who the President is. There is, as Christopher Hitchens used to say, only one “surefire way of raising the floor in society”: the empowerment of women. You give women control over their reproductive systems, a path to a career in whatever field they desire, as well as the right to earn as much as their male counterparts once they make it there, and you have the foundation for a nice little civilization. Women have come a long way. And, yet, there remain so many miles ahead.

Imagine, for a second, if people marched for Medicare For All. Think of the tens of millions of people this would affect, or of the conversations that would be had around the water cooler the following week (or weeks). It would be a direct challenge to the ruling class, from all the lefties in California and Oregon and Washington state to the deepest, most red portions of America. Healthcare is not a partisan idea; a majority of U.S. citizens believe it’s a right, and that the U.S. government should take care of its people.

That’s why the Women’s March fails so hard. It doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable, and there isn’t a conversation worth having. One side cheers while people march aimlessly, the other collectively roll their eyes and don’t give it a second thought. The goal here, or at least the goal here should be, to reach those who are in many ways unreachable. Does a general protest of the President come close to accomplishing that?

Unsurprisingly, the Democratic Party adores these marches, because it gives them a chance for some good press as they do what they love the most: pretending like they give a shit about ordinary people. They purport to be on the side of women — the same as they purport to be on the side of workers, and minorities — when in reality it’s just an appointment to take a photo and post a hashtag.

This is the same Democratic Party that just recently voted to re-open the government after a 70-hour shutdown, without any provisions to protect the Dreamers. The almost 800,000 undocumented kids who were promised sanctuary from the one party that supposedly had their back got thrown under the bus, and it wasn’t even much of a fight. What kind of “resistance” is that? (Apparently, Democrats will agree to build The Wall in exchange for 1.8 million Dreamers, which is even further proof of how enthusiastically brutal they are at their jobs.)

But these are the politicians who run around with the organizers of the Women’s March. In public, they offer rousing speeches and ingratiate themselves in the bigger spectacle. In private, they vote to give more power to the banks, more money to the Pharmaceutical industry, and more surveillance powers to the President. They smile in your face, without shame, while twisting the knife in your back. Afterwards, they laugh all the way to the bank.

If you disagree with my assessment of the Women’s March, I understand. It’s not like the individual marchers are complicit in the stupidity of the Democratic politicians. Similarly, I don’t blame anyone (who doesn’t care for Donald Trump) for not being as Left as I am. My challenge is strictly issues-based: if there is no clear message, people on the other side will find a way to tune out.

That has been my contention, that we should stick to the issues, from the beginning. It was from Hillary Clinton’s camp that the Trump-Russia collusion claim originated, a story that has dominated the headlines without producing a drip of hard evidence that anything beyond normal corruption took place. And if they try to impeach Donald Trump over normal corruption, then they’ll have a lot of explaining to do as to why it wasn’t an impeachable offense when Barack Obama did it, or George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, all who did irreparable damage to the country from the same types of deals with billionaires and oligarchs the world over.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by all this stuff, because it makes for a really sexy story. Back room deals, corruption, large sums of money trading hands; all you need is sex to make it a brilliant idea for a movie.

The issues are not sexy. Like, at all. But they are grounded firmly in reality, and they are quantifiable. Flint, Michigan has been without clean drinking water for almost four years now. How much do you hear about that on the news? An insane percentage of Amazon and Wal-Mart employees collect food stamps because they aren’t paid a living wage. Where are the calls for huge marches in support of those workers unionizing?

The average Trump supporter is not stupid, or racist, or sexist. They just have trouble distinguishing between legitimate news and fake news. The only new information they care about is that which already appeals to their biases and sensibilities. (The same can be said for most people.) Fox News, CNN, MSNBC. . . These are all corporate-bought news outlets. Their specific agendas might be different, but they represent the companies that buy ad time, and the companies that buy ad time are — rest assured — not in the business of letting the audience know just how badly they are getting screwed.

There are only two parties in America. There’s the money party, and there is everyone else. The everyone else portion reflects roughly 99% of the population; so it makes sense that the money party’s primary objective is to squash the agenda of the 99%. They accomplish this through dividing people by race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or religion. Because if the 99% are busy fighting amongst themselves, they won’t turn their attention to the ruling class — who are long overdue for a reckoning in the United States.

So if you are going to march, march for something. Offer a message that people will get behind. Sure it’s cool to see signs that say I would call Trump a cunt, but he lacks the warmth and depth, because that’s pretty good stuff. But is it really going to get across to the average Trump voter? Of course not. What if, for argument’s sake, there was a march for single-payer? It would force that same Trump voter to make a decision. Like I’ve mentioned a million times, many of these people are unreachable. They believe whatever the Dear Leader tells them to believe. But there are plenty, particularly the most desperate, who voted for Trump simply because he promised to make things better after the Obama-Clinton wing only kept making things worse, who are available for the taking. Give them a reason to march with you.

If this blog was all you had to go on, you would have no idea how much I appreciate the awareness and involvement people are currently expressing. This is how it should be all the time, I think. The great fear I have is not that Donald Trump is the President, even though he is a dangerous man and represents dangerous people. No. What I fear is when he is no longer in office, and if people will go back into hibernation, because they believe everything that’s wrong with American politics started only when he arrived. That would be the worst outcome.

The American people have a grand opportunity, but it goes wasted on marches that stand for nothing, or on focusing all our eggs into a Russia narrative, when the real issues haven’t changed.

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