Columnist Ryan Cheevers-Brown: What democracy looks and feels like

  • Scene near the Smithsonian Institution Arts & Industries building during the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/31/2017 8:50:29 PM

I went to the Women’s March on Washington with my mom, Nancy, who has raised me to understand that our country is strongest when all people work together for the common good.

I thought marching would be a good way to join in and add my voice to the fight for equality for all Americans and especially to stand up, as a male who supports women’s rights, during an unprecedented time of threats to our precious civil rights.

What I learned at the march was how empowering it can feel to be protesting with comrades, but also much more. I joined with people of many different nations, races, sexual orientations and immigration statuses to speak out against hate.

I interviewed people from many countries who were marching because they love America too, and understand that it is important to oppose hate in order to keep American ideals. I believe America is already great.

My message is that in order for all Americans to thrive, we need to build bridges among people of all identities and backgrounds. In Obama’s farewell address to the nation, he said, “… change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it. After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.”

The Women’s March was the first of many group oppositional events to demand justice for all and join together for not only women’s rights, but all human rights.

One image stands out from the rest. Near the White House, at the end of the march, we saw a Syrian refugee standing on a small raised lawn. He was holding a sign that said, “I am a Syrian refugee. I love America. I respect people of all religious and sexual orientations. Your decision not to allow refugees into the United States is inhumane.” Everyone there was cheering for him as it must have taken a great deal of bravery to identify himself as Syrian near the White House during this administration.

Opposing Trump’s stance on immigrants is critical. He believes that all Muslims are terrorists. I have friends who are ethnically Muslim, practice the religion, and are some of the most pacifistic people I know. They would hesitate to hurt a fly, but they could be subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” and deported exclusively on the basis of their country of origin.

People from all genders and backgrounds, all ages, and races marched for liberty and justice for all. They were brought from all parts of the nation by this single strand of connection.

Going to this march, especially because it was my first big one, was extremely powerful. It showed me exactly what democracy looks and feels like, especially for such a noble and important cause.

It felt empowering to join with thousands of other Americans and I am energized to keep fighting for this “bold experiment in self-government.”

Ryan Cheevers-Brown, of Leeds, a sophomore at Northampton High School, is an enthusiastic member of its branch of High School Democrats.

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