You are the savior we have been waiting for

16143086_10202567866314137_8987125867389312895_nLike so many others, the results of the 2016 election felt to me, like a sucker punch in the gut. For 18 months of my life, I worked to elect a woman who I considered a role model. Hillary Clintonis a woman that I aspire to be like. Strong, smart, a tiny bit awkward, and a lot bit nasty. I saw in Hillary Clinton a future for our country that was positive, progressive, and hopeful. I also saw a future for myself, living in a country where women truly could be whatever they wanted. I saw her as the savior that I had been waiting for. Needless to say, after the election, I felt lost, sad, and hopeless.

After the election, I was given the option to bow out of an internship that I had agreed to do in Washinton, DC. My boss knew that I had planned my internship largely to be in the city for the historic inauguration. But, I decided that the work they were doing, (helping women explore public policy careers) was even more important after the results of the election. So, I packed my bags and headed for DC.

Inauguration was three weeks into my time in DC and that day was difficult. Trump supporters flooded the city with Make America Great Again hats and some of them also donned hateful t-shirts targeting Democrats and Hillary Clinton. I carefully removed my Hillary button from my jackets to avoid any confrontations with die hard Trump fans. I coped with the changing of our leader by sitting on my couch, eating lots of chocolate, and watching Netflix. But I also coped by preparing for the Women’s March on Washington.

The Women’s March was exactly the healing I needed. After spending almost three months after the election feeling lonely, sad, and hopeless it was energizing to be in a crowd of 500,000 people who felt the same. The women’s march felt like being back in September of 2015 when Hillary spoke at Luther. The crowd was electrified and impassioned. We were fired up, and ready to go. For that day, I felt like everything was going to be okay. I felt empowered and I felt like we were going to be able to fight back, we were women (and some men), and we were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, this past week I have found myself slipping back into feeling lost, sad, and most of all hopeless. I see our new president making decisions that directly impact people I care about without heeding the voice of the people. For the first time in my ‘political life’, I sometimes feel like my voice doesn’t matter because no one is listening.

But in some ways, I think this is how Donald Trump wants us to feel, he wants us to feel powerless and hopeless, he wants to exhaust us. But we have to keep fighting, we have to find within ourselves and our communities, what it is that keeps us energized and willing to fight.

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I know for many of us getting involved in this fight is daunting. Where do we even start? I recently heard a friend say that to start, we should all pick three issues that are going to be our issues. These issues will the ones that we research, we read about, we watch, and we fight for. We cannot possibly keep track of everything going on but we can all keep track of three issues. I have also found a great website called Popvox that will keep track of bills in Congress and will send you weekly updates about events in Congress…and they put the information in real people language, so it is easy to understand. Bottom line, if we are going to fight, we better be informed.

I also encourage everyone to check out a few resources that I have come across in the last few weeks. First, the Indivisible movement, which has put together a guide for resisting the Trump agenda by going directly to our other elected officials (state and national Congresspeople). If you are in Decorah, the first chapter meeting will be held next Tuesday evening. Also, the Women’s March is encouraging people to participate in their 100 days of Action. Every 10 days, they will release an action item for people to engage in. The first action item is to write postcards to your representatives on issues the are important to you. Finally, if we are upset with the system and with our elected officials, we WILL have the chance to replace them. I am saying now, that young people like myself and many of my friends are the people we need to be running for these positions, and we shouldn’t sit around and wait until we are asked. Specifically, if you are a woman, with even an inkling that you may want to run for office, check out the SheShouldRun incubator to find support.

For most of the campaign, I thought Hillary Clinton was the savior I had been waiting for. She was the one who was going to come in and fix our partisan issues, she was going to show us all that women could achieve anything, and she was going to be my champion (she still is but that is another blog post). But if this election and the women’s march showed me anything it is that you are the savior we have been looking for and I am the savior that I have been looking for. So we better get to work.

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Photo: John Minchillo, AP

I am proud to say that I participated in the March on Washington. And I am currently working on a blog post that sums up my experience. But today, something more important came up and I feel the need to speak up about it. This story exemplifies one of the reasons I marched yesterday.

Yesterday, I marched on Washington in support of women’s rights and today, I witnessed the degradation of a woman’s rights.

This morning, I boarded the DC streetcar to get myself home after spending the weekend celebrating the Women’s March with friends. Upon boarding, I realized that the air in the streetcar was tense. There were two men speaking in harsh tones to each other and a woman seated near them trying to read a book. I didn’t really think much of the situation, whatever was happening wasn’t my business.

But, it wasn’t long after the car started moving that I heard the men talking about the ‘pretty lady’ sitting near them on the streetcar. A younger man was chastising the older man for ‘trying to get with her’ and arguing that ‘he had no chance’. The pretty lady they were talking about was squirming in her seat obviously trying to ignore the men.

When the streetcar was forced to stop by a parked car, things got heated as the older man turned to the woman and tried to strike up a conversation with her. She said nothing, put her book in her bag, and walked to the door of the streetcar, pressing the button to try to open the door. But, the door wouldn’t open. The older man stood up and proceeded to stand near the door and near the women. She continued to ignore him, as he continued to talk to her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but the look on her face said she was uncomfortable. In an effort to support her, I moved myself closer to the door and tried to make eye contact. But it was obvious we both felt utterly helpless.

At the next stop, the women quickly exited the streetcar and ran off into a local business, for a moment the man tried to follow her but she was faster than he was so he board the train again. He immediately turned his attention on to me. Luckily, my stop was a short two blocks away which allowed me to escape before he was able to say anything to me. But his leer was enough to let me know he wasn’t a good man.

As I quickly walked home, clutching my keys defensively, I couldn’t help but realize the juxtaposition I had just experienced. Yesterday, I marched. Yesterday, I was elated. Yesterday, I felt strong. And in just two minutes this man made me feel worthless. He made me feel scared. And he made me feel powerless.

I would like to tell you all that this is the first time I have experienced this. But I would be lying. In my time in DC, street harassment by complete strangers has quickly become normalized. Most of the time it seems’harmless,’ just a strange man looking you up and down, or someone winking at you on the street. But sometimes it is really bad, it is a man who yells at you because you won’t say thank you when he ‘compliments’ you, it is two men following you down the street when you are alone, it is a man who won’t leave you alone on the streetcar.

I tell this story because it is a reminder that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to women’s rights in this country. On a macro scale, we need more women in elected office, but on a micro level, we simply need to allow women to feel safe. We need men to stop treating women like objects and that starts on the streets. We need men to leave us alone. And that starts with us having serious conversations about how we speak to and treat the women of this country.

By tomorrow, I will have finished my account of the women’s march which will explain the elation and the power I felt to be a part of a massive group of strong, nasty women. But today, I want us to really consider, how much longer it will be until women can feel strong on our streets, even when they are alone.