My parents were Eastern European Jews, who came here in the years between WWI and WWII. When people hear this, most will say, “Well, luckily, they weren’t in Europe during the Nazis’ time.” That is correct. But, while they escaped Nazism, they lived the brutality that preceded it. They lived the massacres of the pogroms, they lived seeing family members shot in public. They lived the reality of economic deprivation. They lived the upheaval of trying to survive in a territory that was constantly being fought over by two different countries, whose only common ground was a hatred for the Jews. The lucky ones, like my parents, made it out.
Others didn’t. One of my father’s older brothers had a job, a wife, and a young son. Confronted with the prospect of the difficulty and the uncertainty that would result from a move across the world, he chose to stay. He could not imagine that things would get that bad. He and his wife paid for that decision with their lives.
If I’ve learned any lesson from my family’s history, it is that silence, accommodation, and an unwillingness to face reality changes nothing. It is our duty as citizens to abide by the laws of our country and to follow its dictates. But it is also our duty to recognize injustice and to make our voices heard. And, above all, it is to not allow the comfort of our own lives to blind us to the discomfort of others.
Let’s be very clear here: I don’t believe that Donald Trump is Adolph Hitler. Nor do I believe that our country will become anything even close to Nazi Germany. Hitler was a very complex personality. Trump is not. Hitler had a vision. Trump does not. Hitler was disciplined and focused on his vision of a militaristic nation, scrubbed clean of groups he believed were either inferior or were threats to him. Trump is undisciplined and unfocused. There is no grand plan. There is, however, either a basic disregard or a basic misunderstanding of the fallout that will occur once his policies are implemented.
Germany was coming out of a war that humiliated it and emasculated its population and an economic depression that was long and severe. The US, for all of its weaknesses, stands tall in the world and remains economically healthy. Trump may tell us that we are fighting for our economic lives. While the drama of the words play well on TV and in rallies, they do not translate in reality.
I don’t need the threat of a Holocaust to set me into motion. All I need is a belief that the policies of the incoming administration will result in the marginalization of those who are least likely to put up a defense. And that the half of the population, of which I am a member, and who got the vote as recently as during the time my parents were alive, will have some of their hard-won rights eroded.
My family’s experience will not be mine. Because I was born here, and, because, unlike my parents, I was raised to believe that the country in which I lived provided opportunity, rather than fear, I will march. Because I believe that a country that marginalizes some people, weakens us all, I will march. Because I believe that the enrichment of the few does not enrich the many, I will march. Simply put, I choose to have a different experience than that of my family. Not because I am stronger or wiser, but rather, because I am a citizen of a country that I believe is better than this.
Because of these personal reasons, along with thousands of other women and men, I will march on January 21, 2017, one day after the inauguration. My daughter will have her seven-month-old son with her. So technically, we will be three generations marching.
The mission and vision of the march is as follows: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
The march is expected to be one of the largest ever held in DC, and, because of that, it has attracted men and women with seemingly differing agendas. Some of these agenda may seem extraneous or conflicting, or even to have nothing to do with women, per se. But the march, unlike the incoming administration, is not exclusive. The agenda may differ, but the message is clear: We are here. We are strong. We are watching. And we will not be ignored or excluded or shut out. We are citizens of the most powerful country on the planet. More than that, we, ourselves, are powerful.