By Genevieve A. Suzuki | Gen-X in a Millennial World
If you had told me two years ago I would have been on a flight to Washington D.C. on Jan. 19, 2017 to participate in a civil rights march, I would have thought you had the wrong person.
I am the stereotypical Generation X’er. I generally prefer to watch things develop from the comfort of my couch.
And although I am an attorney who is active in community organizations, I have become rather complacent. None of my involvements required true activism: I sit on the board for La Mesa Park and Recreation Foundation and serve as a commissioner for the City of La Mesa’s Community Services Commission.
I am also a member of the Japanese American Citizens League, but have participated in activities that were more cultural than contentious. Parks and cultural awareness do not exactly inspire ire.
On Nov. 8, 2016, however, I was shocked into action after my country elected a president who demeaned women in his speech. A president whose campaign aimed to divide rather than unite.
I’m not going to lie. I was shattered. As a woman who was raised to believe we were equal to men and that we deserved our fair share of respect, the fact a candidate could get elected after saying such awful things blew my mind. Worse, my daughter just witnessed an election in favor of a man who dismissed his inappropriate words as “locker room talk.”
It wasn’t okay.
So when I saw a brief blurb about marching in Washington D.C. the day after the inauguration I immediately discussed it with my husband. Could he handle our 18-month-old son for a few days? Would it be all right for me to leave for three nights so I could march against that mistreatment of women?
My husband, who, like me, has never been vocal about controversial issues, made me proud: “You have to go, Gen. Go for us.”
That’s how I found myself on the way to what would be my first march for civil rights. And boy, was it a doozy.
It started on my flight to Washington. I met fellow San Diegan Ellen Montanari during my layover in Chicago. We sat and talked about how we couldn’t miss this march.
“I had to go to D.C.,” she said. “I had to be there.”
Ellen, who wore a Women’s March shirt beneath her coat, also shared with me websites and ways I could continue to be involved.
After getting off the plane, we took photos with fellow passengers who were also headed to the march. Another marcher happily gave me a pink hat, knitted by a friend who had to do something — anything — even if it was to knit several hats for other participants.
March organizers initially expected around 250,000 of us, but they got more than half a million. Getting on the Metro that morning, I was nervous. I had been warned off by a few friends and family, who were concerned for my safety.
They needn’t have worried. This march was a salve for my soul. There were so many of us we broke the march. But as we were turned away from the planned route, we began marching down adjacent streets.
Fittingly, we marched up Constitution Avenue, chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!” as we passed the Newseum, which features the First Amendment on its facade, reminding us of our rights to free speech and peaceably assemble.
Perhaps the most interesting quality about this march was the warmth, support and encouragement among the marchers. When parents tried to navigate through the crowd with their young children, people would call out, “stroller,” and we would all create a pathway.
We admired each other’s signs and exchanged personal information so we could stay in contact. We were activated; awakened to a new political climate that demands vigilance and personal involvement.
Now I find myself on a new path, ready to take stands and make my voice heard. For that, I am actually grateful to President Donald J. Trump. In this way, he has unified us against an administration who would rather lie about inaugural attendance than respond to reporters’ questions.
And while it was easier to watch from the sidelines, it’s time to get off the couch so our children know that dignity, esteem and compassion belong to us all, regardless of our gender and backgrounds.
—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a La Mesa resident who practices family law. Visit her website at sdlawyersuzuki.com.