This post was contributed by Nicky Margolis as part of our Voices Amplified series.
The day after the election – as I sat in a haze and watched Hillary give her concession speech, as my girlfriend and I dazedly ate pizza with our kids, as I read every article I could to attempt to understand what had just happened – I had an overwhelming sense that I’d felt this way before. Then I received a text from my sister.
“I haven’t felt this numb and sad since the day Dad died.”
And that was it. I realized I was grieving.
My father’s memorial service was about three weeks after he died. And I was actually excited for it. I was looking forward to sharing all the feelings I had brewing inside me and to hearing all the stories about my dad and how he had affected so many people’s lives. I needed to be in a room with people who knew my father and understood the pain my family and I were experiencing. Most of all, I needed to laugh; to have the catharsis of letting all the tears flow through the mixture of utter sadness and joyful memories.
When I learned about the Women’s March in Chicago on January 21, I felt that same sense of hope and excitement. I couldn’t wait to come together with so many people who were grieving like I was. So when the day came to march, I planned to meet up with a group of my girlfriends downtown. From the moment I stepped on to the platform to wait for the train, there was a sense of joyful resistance in the air. Women, men, and children carrying signs, ready to march. One woman was planning to meet her friend downtown as well and explained over the phone, “I’ll be wearing a pink hat. You’ll see me.” And then she laughed, “What am I saying? We’ll all be wearing pink hats!” Another woman and I chatted about how great it was to see so many people heading to the march. “I heard they’re expecting around 60,000 people!” She beamed.
The feeling on the train downtown was celebratory and buzzing with energy. People were chatting and laughing and giving up their seats for others. When I stepped off the train, the positive energy only intensified. People were ready to march. Ready to resist. A young guy was carrying a sign that he had drawn which read “Trump Is Nuts!” and depicted an anatomically correct drawing of Trump’s face as literally a pair of nuts between two scraggly pale thighs.
My girlfriends and I found each other and headed toward Grant Park. But we couldn’t even make it all the way there. The crowd was so thick and pooled blocks away from where organizers and speakers took the stage. So we just stood amid the signs and protestors and gave thumbs up and cheers and took pictures. Among my favorites was a woman carrying a sign about the size of an index card that read “Tiny hands. Tiny mind. Tiny man. Tiny sign.” Another favorite was a sign that read “Super Callous Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.”
Though it was our collective rage that brought us all together, we spent most of the day laughing. I was so moved by how many people had shown up (it turns out about 250,000) and by how united we all were in fighting for our democracy. It was a beautiful day. Not only because it was an abnormally warm 60-degree day in January in Chicago, (Climate change is not real. Alternative Winter?) but because even through our despair and our worry for our country’s future, we showed that the American spirit is strong. And we were having fun. That’s the way it should be. My mother told me about the old protest slogan: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.” And it rang true during the Women’s March.
After my father’s memorial service I sat in the kitchen with my sister, among all the dirty dishes and the array of desserts and appetizers. We had spent the day laughing and sharing stories about my father. It was a beautiful day. We had all come together and shown how strong we are as a family. But in the quiet of that kitchen, after everyone had gone home, I started to cry. Because I knew the easy part was over and now the work had to begin. Now we had to face our emotions and cope as productive members of society. “Now,” I said. “Now, we just have to deal with it.”
The march is over. We came together. We laughed. We danced during the revolution. It was beautiful. But now we need to make it meaningful and make sure that it mattered. The one sign at the protest that struck me the most was “He is my President. That’s the problem!” We have to look at the fight we have ahead of us and we have to find a productive way to deal with it.
Nicky Margolis lives in Chicago with her husband and 2 children. She is an alum of the Second City and a proud member of the ACLU.