Written and Pictures by : Sandhya Acharya

Jan 21st, 2017 – the day of the Women’s March will go down as an important date. Half a million marchers are said to have gathered in D.C alone. Independent estimates state there were more than 3 million marchers in the US. The Women’s March website estimates there were 673 marches around 421 U.S and 200 international cities. It was probably the biggest protest march in American history. Our family of four, comprising one female and three males, also joined ranks with the numerous others to mark our solidarity with the movement.

The crowds were already gathering when we arrived at the sister March in San Jose, CA. The numerous signs people held was symbolic of what each one stood for and was willing to support. Chants reverberated in the air. Waves of people made their way through streets in an orderly, peaceful and determined way.There were women from all walks of life and men too. Mothers, wives, daughters gathered along with husbands, fathers, and sons. Elders gathered to preserve the rights they had so tirelessly fought for in their day. The youth gathered with the promise and energy to bring about change. Parents gathered in the hope of bequeathing a livable tomorrow. And children gathered as future torch bearers and as a witness to a peaceful democratic process.

The reasons we all marched were many. These were mine.

To stand up for women

As a teenager, growing up even in the relatively safe city of Mumbai, India, I was used to walking with my fist closed – poised to punch. I had to always be ready to fight molesters who wouldn’t let go of any opportunity to grope you. Someone could follow you and pin you down in your own apartment complex, someone could pinch you while you stand in the bus, someone could ‘accidentally’ brush against you as you walked to the train station. This is every woman’s story. Sexual Harassment is an every-day event for all women in varying degrees and circumstances in different parts of the world. And it disgusts us – each one of us. Locker room or not – it is NOT OK to disrespect women. A leader leads by example. My stomach ties in knots when I recall how the leader of our nation addressed women. This is a nation where people have painstakingly fought to protect women’s rights. I marched for all the women who value a culture of freedom, respect, and equity and are willing to defend it.

To Preserve our Founding Fathers Dreams

I came to America over 15 years back and this country has amazed me in so many ways. The access to opportunity for anyone who wants to make a good life for himself/herself is unique to this place. Sure, that dream isn’t perfect. But ask any immigrant who has seen other parts of the world and they will tell you how limitless life looked when they first arrived here. This is the American promise: the Declaration of Independence that states that we are all created equal and that we have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Constitution that merges the different laws, interest, and culture into one United States with the preamble “We the People”. I marched to re-live those words and the intent of our founders and to feel the same hope and zeal for America.

To restore our inner morality

The election of President Donald Trump to the highest office in America is going to be studied for generations after ours as a textbook case. Before this election, I saw the parties in this democracy in a different light. Sure there were policies that I didn’t agree with. There were, in fact, arguments that I sided with on both sides. The two party system is a way to debate, not to hate. The most important part was that at the center of it all, there was decency. America had a light that showed the path to the rest of the world. A moral high ground. This was destroyed with this election. The language used by our leaders, the ego and braggadocio on display, the ‘alternate facts’, the spirit of vindictiveness – these are not befitting of the highest office of our nation. The ugly remnants of racism, prejudice, bigotry that we believed were fading are now being justified and brought to the fore. And in that sense, irrespective of which party we voted for, we all lost. I marched because, in spite of all this, I am hopeful. Hopeful that there are still people who value integrity and morality and are willing to work to restore it.

To rise above fear

The rhetoric being spread today is that of fear. People are being openly encouraged to fear immigrants instead of helping them integrate and contribute. Insecurities are being channeled into fear. Fear that people who do not look like us are taking away our jobs. Fear that a different colored person could be a thief or rapist. Fear that by welcoming something new we lose what is ours. It is us against them. The truth is, immigration adds not subtracts. It brings vitality to the economy and richness to our culture. Immigrants are entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors, job creators, small business owners. They are people who work hard and want to be productive in society.

A different colored skin, a scarf, a turban, a cap or a beard does not make anyone less American. The hallmark of America is its diversity. Each person here wants to contribute to the country, to raise their families well, and have the same opportunities for success. Our minorities want to be able to take the subway without fear, walk in the park without using pepper spray, walk in the neighborhood without being attacked. Nobody wants to take away jobs. Nobody wants to destroy homes. Nobody wants the other to fall. We all want to rise together. We all want to make our economy better. But suddenly we find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence. There is no place for the two sides to meet, talk and work together. This is not how countries become great. I marched because I want us to not fear each other – I want us to be friends, not foes.

To exercise democracy

Just as we had the right to vote, we also have the right to peacefully protest. Our free press is our crown jewel. It is the most important pillar of our democracy. Yet the first constitutional amendment of 1791 is being challenged and threatened today. We are all waiting to see how this democracy works – what gets passed in the congress and what role will our courts play. How do the checks and balances play out?  How many fiscally conservative republicans will end up supporting a $20B wall, how breaking ties with allies and alienating neighbors be it on NAFTA or TPP will impact our trade and what our lawmakers will do about it. Marching as one gives a signal to our elected officials. It helps them see what the pulse is of the constituency they represent. It is a support system for the ones marching to know we are not alone, that we can mobilize and drive change.

It is a reminder that while the electorate system did put into power someone with a lead of 76,000 votes in 3 states (that is how many people can fit into a stadium), we still have to be cognizant of the 3 million wide gap in the popular vote. That the votes that pushed our President to the top will also hold him accountable not just for the short term, but also for the long term. We will all judge him for the far-reaching impact of his actions on our culture, environment, economy, foreign standing, and integrity.

I marched because I believe that the biggest asset of a democracy is us – the people. We still have the power. America is still ‘We the People’.

But the most important reason I marched was this – A few years from now, when good sense would have prevailed, my son and his generation will look back and ask us “What were you doing on that day?” and I will say, “I marched.”

This post first appeared on the author’s blog at http://www.sandhyaacharya.com/2017/01/30/why-i-marched/

1/100 – Stories That Should Matter To EveryOne