Coming home to inspiration

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I knew the march was going to exceed expectations when I saw hundreds of women, many sporting pink pussy hats deplaning in D.C. as I waited for my flight back to Reno Friday afternoon. The women were everywhere I turned in the airport, and their mood was festive and refreshing after a gray and gloomy week capped off by inauguration day and the dark, uninspiring speech by our new president, a throwback to an age of despotic unenlightenment.

It rained all week in D.C. as I cared for my grandson and worried along with the rest of the world about the coming years when we’ll be governed by a leader who epitomizes an insecure bully in his every tweeted response to the slightest imagined insult.

It was a week of hearings on Cabinet nominees so unqualified and unprepared for their jobs it made heads spin. Betsy DeVos, nominated for secretary of education, demonstrated her ignorance of public education concerns of measuring proficiency and growth on standardized tests. She said she was “confused” about whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was federal law, expressing the view that education for children with disabilities should be left up to states to decide. But she was crystal clear on the need for guns in schools, saying it might be necessary in Wyoming to ward off a grizzly attack.

As Trump insisted his historically low approval ratings were “rigged,” his cartoonish demeanor seemed ever more pronounced and his supporters completely blinded to his mendacity on facts large and small. They hypocritically demanded respect for the office if not for the man, conveniently forgetting the despicable birther movement led by Trump or the Republican leadership’s boast to thwart President Obama on every issue no matter its merit.

The Women’s March on Saturday was a welcome antidote to the depression and helplessness many felt watching Trump’s rise to power. In Reno, organizers were hoping for 3,000 participants but realistically expecting 1,000. Ten times that thousand showed up, carrying homemade signs and wearing the ubiquitous pussy hat. Generous women brought extra homemade hats to share as volunteers led chants and gently corralled the marchers.

More than 10,000 people joined in the “Biggest Little March” which filled City Plaza and spilled over the downtown bridges where I introduced speakers. A diverse group of female speakers took the stage to talk about their personal experiences as women of color, of Muslim and Christian faiths, and differing gender identities. Organizers from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada offered examples of next steps in the resistance. The crowd eagerly responded, chasing down organizers with clipboards who were collecting contact information to notify them of future resistance activities.

But it was the mood of the march, larger than any previous demonstration in Reno’s history, that was most captivating. Even though it was cold, hard to move around, and the sound system was woefully inadequate, people were energized and excited. It felt like a turning point, a reaching of critical mass.

Social media was full of photos and commentary with a consistent theme of community pride that so many showed up to insist that women’s rights be respected, immigrants be valued, and our society be inclusive. Turning this energy and hope into the action necessary to resist the new administration, already dismissive of indigenous communities, climate change, and civil rights is the obvious next challenge.

One of the first targets should be our federal representatives who are best positioned to combat the liar-in-chief by refusing to confirm his uniquely unqualified cabinet nominees. And if U.S. Sen. Dean Heller—who will be running for re-election next year—isn’t sure the resistance is real, I know the first 10,000 Northern Nevadans ready to remind him.