CAST YOUR VOTE
WORDS & IMAGE: EVAN HAZELETT
On Saturday, millions of demonstrators across the country came together in solidarity to let the world know that women’s rights are human rights, that we won’t sit idly while an insecure sexist and bigot takes aim at our dignity and our safety.
In every major city, turnout substantially exceeded expectations. Washington anticipated 250,000 marchers, but saw half a million strong. Boston expected 40,000 and was greeted by 150,000 voices. Los Angeles expected 80,000, and was engulfed by a cascade of 750,000 hopeful feet in the streets.
Everywhere, the story was the same. The aerial footage is awe-inspiring. I am tremendously proud of those who took a stand, both the strong and brave women and men I know as well as all the strangers who are truly my soul sisters and brothers.
Yet, despite the intense pride and invigoration I experienced on Saturday, I found myself split down the middle, and still do. I am incredibly angry, on the one hand. I want to fight. I want to shout. If only I could scream so loud all the injustice would melt away. I am invigorated. I am inspired. I know how much work there is to be done. I will be a part of that work. I'm ready to get after it.
On the other hand, I just want to curl up in a ball and cry. I'm hurting a lot. My heart soaks up the world's hurt through osmosis. Under the fight is a deeper sadness. That we should even have to fight this fight in the first place. That we should even have to scream. That there are hearts made of stone, woven with prejudice and hatred, who would sooner cause suffering than relinquish an ounce of privilege and power. That the rights of my mom, and my partner, and my aunts and cousins, and all my other sisters out there are threatened daily, their value as humans deemed lesser. That black and brown bodies are deemed lesser. That their struggle is generations old, pain generations old, a struggle I can't possibly begin to comprehend. Overwhelmed by this pain. My lungs freeze and my chest shrinks as I cringe with this pain. I can't even fathom the hate. If I stare too long into its jaws my eyes begin to sting, blurring my conviction.
But in the wake of this historical day, I have swept away the haze, my purpose scorching back into focus with eyes set on the weeks to come. This crushing sadness I feel is nothing to the rage that lives inside me. I will not tolerate an abhorrent world of suffering and inequality. I never have and I never will. I have and will continue to dedicate my life to educating and inspiring and transforming our broken systems.
It didn't start today. It started yesterday. It started a month ago. A year ago. Twenty-five years ago when I was born, this fight had already made a home beneath my ribs. It's been burning and building and evolving and growing. I will not stop. We cannot stop. The power of collective action on display Saturday is but a foundation. We must keep that energy alive, assembling the structures from which we will mount our resistance.
But don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Your resistance doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, top-down, system-shattering change. One of the biggest ways you can make a difference is to simply cast your vote every single day.
I'm not talking about voting for elected officials. I'm talking about taking ownership over every decision you make, every single day. So you marched on Saturday — that's a great starting point. But now what?
Access the power in your daily decisions. Do you buy cheaper soap that hurts the planet? Stop that. Do you buy cheaper meat that is the product of cruelty? Stop that. Do you keep your emotions from your partner? Stop that. Do you stay silent when your friend is being racist or sexist? Stop that. Are you a business owner who pays your Latina workers less to cut costs? Stop that. Do you buy and buy and buy things you don't need? Stop that. Do you accept plastic bags at stores because it's more convenient than bringing your own? Stop that. Are you complicit in social systems that perpetuate misogyny? Stop that. Do you drive alone when you could easily carpool or, better yet, bike or take public transit? Stop that!
If you stand for something, then walk the walk. Though you may not always see the results of your efforts, you are not powerless. Every decision you make supports one thing and ignores something else. There is never abstaining, only choosing. “Opting out” is merely “opting in” for the opposite cause.
So, put your support, your money, and your voice where your heart is. Just as tens of millions of individual, seemingly unrelated votes aggregate to a force that determines a presidency, so too do millions of consumer decisions, relationship decisions, and personal decisions aggregate to a force that determines the direction of the world.
Respect life beyond the big moments. Take pride in the quotidian.
In my lowest moment on Saturday, I found comfort and empowerment in poetry. And the wonderful Rupi Kaur in Milk and Honey was really speaking to me. Her poem below is a perfect example of the agency we have as individuals in changing the world. The actions of every child’s parents, appearing disparate in isolation, aggregate to the collective rearing of the next generation.
Your actions never exist in a vacuum. They are always part of a greater whole.
To every father out there, read closely:
every time you
tell your daughter
you yell at her
out of love
you teach her to confuse
anger with kindness
which seems like a good idea
till she grows up to
trust men who hurt her
cause they look so much
- to fathers with daughters