I’m as surprised as anybody that I’ve begun marching in support of causes I care about. I have never been an activist. For years, I was quietly passionate about my politics and causes – emphasis on quietly. I spoke about them among friends, sent letters and checks, but that was it.
My upbringing discouraged political activism.
I was 12 in 1967 when race rioting began in Detroit and Toledo, my hometown. My father was a fire chief and reported that rioters were throwing rocks and bottles at firefighters. He was angry and I was scared. Although I didn’t agree with the violence, looting and burning, the civil rights movement made me aware that blacks were often treated unfairly, which might prompt them to anger and rioting. Despite that insight, at 12 years old, I was more worried about my father’s safety than anything else.
I was 15 on May 4, 1970, when, after days of Vietnam War protests, four students were killed and nine were wounded by National Guardsmen at Kent State University several hours from my home. As a WWII veteran, my father disagreed with the war protests, and at dinner on the evening of the shootings, he denounced the campus lawlessness. My mother staunchly agreed with him. My college-age brother and younger sister didn’t comment. I was in sympathy with the protesters, but kept silent.
My primary impression of protests and marches was that they could easily turn violent—something I wanted no part of.
Because I can’t bear to see 40-50 years of progress—on civil rights (race, gender, religion, and country of origin), women’s rights, and environmental protections—disappear.
This just can’t be my generation’s legacy.
I know full well that marching by itself doesn’t change anything. It’s just gesture, and that gesture has to be followed up with a sustained effort to create change. I’m prepared to do that, too.
I believe that seeing the sheer numbers of marchers puts politicians on notice—we are a force to be reckoned with, and they serve us, not the other way around.
I hope that other people who share my views and values will be heartened and moved to take action too.
Marching makes me feel less powerless, more hopeful.