I, and a handful of other students like myself were fortunate enough to attend the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C., thanks to the scholarships gifted by generous ILNH community members. I groggily got on the bus at 6:25 A.M. with recurring scenes of my time at the Women’s March and the March 14th Walk Out slipping through my consciousness. I think most people tend to feel excited on the road to these events, and although I am no exception, I can’t shake the strange way that foot-stomping anger and the elating feeling of unity seem to harmonize among almost every attendee.
The presence of colorful, creative, and impactful signs are always a favorite element of these types of events, allowing for heartfelt expression and arguments to be made in a captureable, photogenic method. Protest signs are the perfect visual for me, and left me with a silent (though the surrounding space was anything but quiet) affirmation that I was not alone. When I’m feeling demoralized, I like to look back on my photos from events like these, and let the sentiments that fueled that day to return to me. It’s a type of nostalgia that I can feel looking at posters from Affordable Care Act walks to the Women’s March, serving as a digital representation the words and sentiments that cannot be created or easily expressed to others.
I don’t mean to paint these marches as flawless occasions to be held on a pedestal, chocked full of wonder and love and purity. I was sunburnt, I was cramped and pressed into strangers, I met people I didn’t particularly like, my knees ached, I was uncomfortable. But these “shortcomings” are an important piece of the experience. They are almost symbolic in the way that they remind you that you’re there to fight against injustices along with people you may not particularly enjoy, which is not easy, and neither is the struggle against oppressors for any individual. If your fun outweighs the sentiment of anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo, you’re probably not angry enough.
Unfortunately for young people, there is an underlying irritant that can be found in many areas of activism. I would like to utilize this platform that I have been given to share my experience to add a quick PSA on behalf of “the young people”: Please do not put another burden of “fault” on our shoulders. I’m sure when you were young you scoffed at the judgments and presumptions of older generations. (I know that the Beatles and their long hair weren’t satanic, I’m sorry your parents hated that “noise” too.) A woman stopped my friends and me to tell me that if everyone our age voted, Trump would have lost. I told her if less white women voted for Trump, Hillary would have won. I know that these statements are from a good place, but they are often not received well. Instead of putting all of the work on the youth’s shoulders, please make sure you’re focusing on every age group’s participation (And how they’re participating).
Despite this, I have immense gratitude for the people of any age that choose to donate their time to good causes, whether it affects their life directly or not. Every effort made towards a progressive future is cherished by those in my generation who know that the future will eventually be on their shoulders. We know that your advocacy will ultimately benefit us and following generations, and together we will all pursue a better, and safer, future.