The thought struck me in a bolt of panic on Sunday afternoon. I was riding the Acela Express, brimming with estrogen and pride as it barreled into New York City from Washington D.C. The day earlier, I joined hundreds of thousands of women there in the women’s march, the sheer scale of which couldn’t be appreciated until hours later, when those who’d participated saw aerial views of what they just were a part of.
But it was the comedown that got me. Mostly because the lifecycle of shock and horror in our world is so rapidly diminishing. It’s been proven time and time again, after every school shooting when we call for gun law reform, but then days pass. Something else happens. We look away; we move on. Nothing changes. The unrelenting pace of today’s 24/7 news cycle and the omnipresence of social media have had a Pavlovian effect, making us insatiable content receptacles. We’re all fixated on consuming what’s next in our feed, to the extent that nothing really sticks. And our withering attention spans are a big problem—it’s what distracts us from climate change; it's what preoccupies us and prevents us from honestly tackling race relations; it's what keeps us from organizing and effecting any sort of real change.
So how do we go forward? How do we sustain the potency of our outrage? How do we harness it as an agency for change?
We DVR less Housewives. We click into less stories about what Kendall Jenner wore to dinner. We read more long-form journalism. We pay attention. We avoid the white noise, the easy preoccupations that distract us from keeping Trump accountable. And if Saturday was any indication, we will.
The media calling out new White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during the Sunday morning shows reassured that. As his first order of business, Spicer overtly lied—or offered “alternative facts” according to Kellyanne Conway—saying President Trump’s inauguration had a higher attendance than Barack Obama’s. It was all around alarming and set a scary precedent. If, on day one, this administration can flagrantly lie about something as petty and trivial as crowd size—something very easily refutable to anyone with eyeballs—what are we in for going forward? Just full-on propaganda? It was a point lost on Conway, who kept making light of it when she talked to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Are we still talking about crowd size?” she asked. “I think the crowd size is not important." That’s precisely why it’s so troubling, Kellyanne. How deranged is this President that he thought he could get away with such a bold-faced lie, and how fragile is his ego that it was important enough to lie about?
We must act. But we must also exercise patience—something particularly difficult in this day and age (see-now, buy-now anyone?). We’re a generation of instant gratification. We want results and we want them now. But we must remember that the Civil Rights Movement and marriage equality were not the results of one protest, one sit-in, one rally, one march. We need to exercise patient persistence. Despite Saturday’s protests, Donald Trump is still our President—something that could make some feel defeated. Conway tried to tap into that when speaking to Stephanopolous yesterday morning, asking what the point was of the march, restating that Trump was still President. I, like many of the women who watched that segment, was perturbed. How, Kellyanne, can you be dismissive of millions people demonstrating around the world? How can you not “see the point”? Of course, her answer would be infuriating, something like, “What I do see the point in is…[cue pivot to irrelevant topic].”
But as infuriating as all the rhetoric can be, we cannot fight hate with hate. Saturday’s march gave me hope in that regard. Zero arrests were made, this despite the fact that over a million people marched. And, from my experience, protestors could not have been more gracious, considerate, or supportive. Trite as it sounds, I was truly inspired by the women in my midst. When my feet hurt, I looked around at disabled women and at the many elderly, less mobile women who were chanting. I looked at mothers hoisting their toddlers in one arm and holding a sign in the other. I saw a woman holding a “PRO-CHOICE BUT ANTI-TRUMP” sign offer another woman wearing a vaginally adorned sandwich board a handful of almonds when she overheard her say she was hungry. It was inspiring, seeing the power of collective kindness.
That’s not to say we’re not angry. We’re angry, but it’s a hopeful anger. Aziz Ansari’s closing to his SNL monologue on Saturday night summed it up quite nicely: “I know there’s a lot of people worried right now. It is a weird time. If you’re excited about Trump, great. He’s President. Let’s hope he does a great job. If you’re scared about Trump and you’re very worried, you’re going to be okay, too,” he said. “Because if you look at our country’s history, change doesn’t come from Presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if day one is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I’ve ever seen.”
So today, we can be proud. But instead of patting ourselves on the back, may I suggest we make like Erika Jayne and pat the puss?