Nothing is simple. Everything is simple. Both are true. So, now what do we do? What does anyone do?
It was simple to go to the massive march, to let the world and one another know that many people are concerned about what Trump’s presidency means for our country and how it can damage our daily lives. Women who wore pink hats were energized because of a tape recording that confirmed Trump’s misogyny for all to hear.
That said, nothing is simple. People had their own personal and political agendas. Many wanted to express solidarity, but that solidarity is full of differences within groups and among individuals. Massive differences.
I think the purpose of the march was not precisely to create change, but to make it clear that there is strength in numbers. It was a passionate commitment to democracy for all to see and hear.
Three days later comes David Brooks of the NYT, who has a particular attitude against passionate opposition – saying, “people march and feel good and think they have accomplished something.” He went on to write that the marchers “fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community.”
I didn’t think people carrying different signs and promoting all kinds policy concerns from climate change to women’s rights to education to equal justice were people fooling themselves. They were sharing different concerns within a common message – a message of power, hope, and objection to the Trump agenda.
Brooks has written similar columns for years, and they all boil down to particular themes, the essence being that capitalism mixed with biblical teachings should be our aspiration. He knows what’s best for everyone. He reminds me of our new president who also knows what’s best for everyone.
But just as these generalizations are patronizing, they contain kernels of truth. We need activist programs with specific goals and objectives, organized to push for local, statewide, and national change. It just wasn’t what this march was about
As a psychoanalyst I help people analyze how they got to be the way they are and what they can do to free themselves from their own histories that have shackled them over their lives. People repeat patterns in neurotic unproductive ways, but they also repeat themselves hoping to get things right finally. It’s the same process, but with opposite intent.
So there was something accurate in what David Brooks wrote – that there is need for comprehensive plans of action. But he was also dismissive both in tone and content.
The march was not about planned change, but about energizing people to make plans for change – and then follow through. How can something be both practical and emotional? To repeat, nothing is simple and everything is simple.
Brooks avoids emotion because somehow he’s uncomfortable with it. And, while it doesn’t matter why he personally feels that way, it does matter that he tried in his column to make the marchers uncomfortable with their emotions. The feelings engendered by the march were real and powerful – though any activist knows that such feelings need to be channeled and transformed into getting results.
American history is infused with naysayers, with people who cloak their fears of emotion and passion inside critical logic. What this march did was remind people of each other, that they were in fact a choir but didn’t know it. The march got people who lived in individual worlds surrounded by computers, websites, and skewed news programs – and helped them find something common to them all – the pink hats of childhood. Overtly about women’s genitalia, the hats also represented defiant childhood wishes to belong, to be connected to siblings and family, to find a safe place of protection from destructive leaders.
Brooks insists that identity politics never leads to change, and that the marchers need a coherent message rather than communal good feeling. I think they need both, and the march revealed that unique passions were also part of a common passion.
As he writes that this kind of event won’t get results, he seems almost as uncomfortable as Trump. He just wears a better costume. As the program hawker says at the game, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard”. But you can tell the marchers without David Brooks telling us who they are and aren’t.