Murmuration: My Hope for the Women’s March

It is Inauguration Day. Or, as I have been prone to think of it, the eve of the Women’s March.

Like all big movements, we haven’t gotten here smoothly or quietly. In fact, I’d guess that the people I’ll be marching with tomorrow would rather they didn’t feel compelled to be there.

After all, if we felt safe and cared for, if we felt equal, if we felt our futures were reasonably safeguarded, we’d spend our Saturday morning sleeping in. Or at the farmer’s market. Or snuggling our pets. Or nuzzling a cup of coffee. Or nursing a hangover. Or nursing a baby.

But we know that we do not feel safe, or equal, or like our futures are a priority. So instead of doing what we’d rather do, instead of doing the things we’d do if our lives were not hanging in the balance, we march.

For some of us this is a new feeling. The election was a wake-up call. This seems to be true of many national and local organizers, who in their zeal to do something forgot that the fight was not born in the moment of their epiphany but has instead been carried all along by those who have never been granted the privilege of safety.

For some of us, this will be the first time our soles hit the street in response to the pain in our souls. It will be the first time our feet and bodies ache in unison with our internal tensions – fear hanging with hope, despair with determination, this-is-not-right with it-can-be-better.

For some of us, this will be only the latest in a long line of miles stretching behind. For some of us, the fight for justice has never been optional. For some of us, there’s never been the option to not be awake. Some of us have fought just to stay alive.

And some of us, long wearied by the treadmill of injustice, may just need to sit this one out.

Even still, they expect us to be numerous. The expect us to fill streets. They expect us to show up, because we’ve said we will.

And I hope we do.

I hope we show up with every fierce and flawed molecule. With every miscarriage story, every scar, every preexisting condition, every moment we’ve had to pause and consider how to correct the man in power without damaging our own credibility. I hope we show up with our children. I hope we show up with our tattoos. I hope we show up with our wheelchairs. I hope we show up with our bras and our binders. I hope we show up with our tears and our daring and our laughter, the laughter that sparks bravery and reveals just how small our abusers are.

And I hope, when we step on each other, we apologize and adjust.

I hope when we white women demand that our sisters of color claim allegiance to one part of their identity over the other, we apologize.

I hope when we cis women ignore the unique fears of our trans sisters, erase their experience, or respond to them in fear, we repent.

I hope when we straight women downplay our queer sisters’ concerns, we hear ourselves inflicting on them the same minimizing that’s been done to us.

I hope when we all show up with all of ourselves, we plan to adjust and make room accordingly.

I hope we can, like starlings, respond to this threat with flight and dance.

As it turns out, the way groups of thousands of starlings manage to twist and undulate and accelerate in seeming unison is an adapted technique. When one bird senses a predator, like a hawk or falcon, it takes off. And the whole group takes off with it.

These movements, I’ve learned, are called a “critical transition.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But what seems like a liquid, unified, choreographed motion actually comes down to each bird taking its cue from the bird closest to it. When your neighbor moves, you move. This is why, during a murmuration, small groups may break off from the larger group for a time before rejoining. And yet each motion serves the same purpose: to confuse the predator and protect all birds in the group.

And this is my hope for the Women’s March, and for all our actions in the ongoing march toward justice. That we attend closely to one another. That we adjust for one another. That we remember that a movement that benefits and protects one of us protects us all. That we go where the person we are next to in that moment needs to go, whether we know them or not. That, as we fight for ourselves, we create a spectacle worth remembering. That we remember unity is not a perfect goal if it means we sacrifice agility and protecting our neighbor. That we remember when a group separates from the larger body, it is not a defection, but a defensive distraction to those who seek to harm.

And that when we land at home after the big show, we keep watch, ready to take flight again when it’s time to dance our way out of danger.

Just as this is not a beginning, neither is it the end.

If we are fortunate, there will be more slow Saturdays in between. Saturdays for bloody marys and football and the weekend crossword puzzle. But we must remain ready to get back in the street when we are called.

I hope we white women will take off work and take flights and take our babies and take our moxy to march as other vulnerable people are placed in danger by the Administration our white sisters voted in.

I hope we cis women will fight like hellfire for our trans sisters, for their healthcare and safety and freedom.

I hope we straight women will get creative and take action alongside our queer siblings, to preserve and further their rights.

I hope we Christians will defend our neighbors of other faiths and will denounce fear and hatred whenever we encounter it. Perfect love casts out fear.

I hope when a predator comes for one of us, we know they’ve come for us all. And rather than lash out and destroy, we murmurate.

Tomorrow we practice. Tomorrow we learn. Tomorrow we show up.

Fly right and fly well.

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