Wednesday, January 25

I went down to the Women’s March in Denver on Saturday with my girlfriend and my sister and a couple of our friends and (from the looks of things at the bus station) a pretty good percentage of Boulder County. I didn’t take a camera any better than my phone; none of us were really sure what to expect from the whole thing, and traveling light seemed like a good idea.

above: rough-draft sign mockups, patches, blurry phonecam of crowd

I only went to a few antiwar events in the run-up to the Iraq invasion (a thing I didn’t really know what to think about, in a time before I knew what to think about a lot of things). I sat out Occupy, although I had friends involved in one way or another. I’ve never done a genuinely big march or demonstration of any kind, really. We talked to people on the way down who said they never had either, but they felt that things had gone too far and it was time.

As it turned out, this march at least was overwhelmingly peaceful. The parts of it I was there for were, I don’t know how else to put this, mellow. Calm. Kind of happy. Lots of pleasant middle-aged ladies. Families with kids. Maybe the biggest crowd I’ve ever been part of, and everyone who bumped into me politely apologized. I think I exchanged smiles with a lot of people who have been feeling for a while like the entire probable tide of history is chipping away at their sanity.

I knew some of the chants: “No justice / no peace”, “no Trump / no KKK / no fascist USA”. “What does democracy look like / this is what democracy looks like”. Is some of this shit cringey in its sincerity? Yes. On the other hand, do I disagree? Not really. The Klan and fascism and Donald Trump are all bad things. Down with this sort of thing.

“United / we stand / against his tiny hands” was a big hit. “Science is real” was both affirming and not a thing you want to look at too hard, because why are we in a situation where asserting that there’s something like an observable, correlatable external reality qualifies as a form of dissent?

I don’t have any neat conclusions about this. I’ve spent a long time thinking that protest in general has been pretty well assimilated and neutralized by an emergent collusion between governments, law enforcement, and news media. I still think that, but I have other thoughts too: Maybe marching and chanting in the streets is for its effect on the marchers and the marched-for, not the marched-against. Maybe it’s not all quite so toothless as I have been conditioned to think.

I’m not going to frame taking to the streets as a moral imperative. But I also think well, it’s not nothing.