God, I hate going to rallies.
Don't get me wrong; I am all for political participation. I make phone calls, I write letters, I write checks; I put in plenty of volunteer hours on issues that I care about. While I'm sure I could be doing much more to make the world a better place, I'm not really a sit-on-the-sidelines kind of gal.
But rallies. For the past quarter century I have avoided them like the plague. To start with, I’m an introvert, and there are few things I enjoy less than big crowds. And then there are the slogans and the speeches. I dislike the simple-mindedness of political rhetoric, the jargon, the demonizing of opposing opinions. And the chanting! Don’t get me started.
And yet I have found myself at rallies for the past two weekends. Last weekend, of course, I had to go to the Women’s March (I went in Boston), if only to show off my fabulous new hat, made for me by my daughter Rebecca:
Look: ours are anatomically correct! Figure it out.
Then on Friday the new president issued his executive order on immigration. Banning refugees and establishing a religious test for immigrants: these policies are so inimical to everything I believe that staying home didn't feel like an option. And so I found myself at my second rally in as many weeks, along with several thousand of my new best friends.
Turns out I was supposed to bring a sign -- who knew??
OK. That last sign made me laugh; but it's not one I would ever carry myself.
Here's the thing. Like so many others in my corner of the world, I was devastated by the results of this election. Ever since I have been doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking about how to respond. While I have no answers about anything, really, the one conclusion I've reached thus far is that I need to personally embrace a more profound kind of tolerance – tolerance that extends not only to people of different religions, skin tones, and sexual preferences, but also – and this is harder – to people who look at the world in which we all live and come to moral and political conclusions that differ sharply from my own.
So while I have renewed my commitment to standing up for the issues I hold dear, I have also renewed my commitment to doing so in a way that is truly respectful of those with whom I disagree.
I am embracing radical tolerance.
Trouble is, tolerance for divergent viewpoints is not really the point of most rallies -- how could it be? The point is to make as strong a statement as possible, to unify people around a shared purpose. And so taking my newly-embraced tolerance to these rallies is a little like going to a potluck when you've just sworn off of, say, gluten. The salad might be ok, if there are no croutons. The potato salad -- that's a definite yes. But steer clear of the pizza. And don't even think about the banana bread.
So here at the rally, what's a radically tolerant girl to chant? This girl, honestly, would prefer not to chant anything at all, ever. But it's a rally. You gotta at least try the potato salad.
No hate, no fear; refugees are welcome here!
I can chime in on that one.
Tell me what democracy looks like – this is what democracy looks like!
Fascists out, refugees in!
This one I’m sitting out. I am really hesitant to drop the “f” word. It's true that there is more than a passing resemblance between Trump and Mussolini. And I am deeply disturbed by pretty much all of his administration’s actions and statements in its first week. On the other hand, we’ve yet to see mass incarcerations and executions. So I’m holding off for now on this particular label.
The crowd takes up this cheer:
No collaboration / With this administration!
A dad next to me turns to his daughter and says, “See, honey? It’s an important skill to learn how to rhyme!”
As a songwriter, I couldn’t agree more. But I do have to say, the –ation rhymes are cheap victories. I have used them shamelessly in my own lyrics. But I feel a little dirty, every time:
Here's a REAL challenge, kid: find a rhyme for tolerance:
If I really want to contribute to this protest movement, I think I will need to take my songwriting skills and come up with some new, radically tolerant chants. Here's one:
It reflects perversity
To reject diversity
How about this? Chant along with me, now:
We welcome refugees!
But we have compassion for people who feel overwhelmed by the pace of change in a rapidly globalizing world.
I guess I'll keep working on it. I have no choice, really, since it seems I'll be doing a lot more of this kind of thing in the next few years.