The press limits and fixates its reporting of earthquakes to measurements on the Richter scale. They toss us a number, usually projected at the epicenter of a target behind them, and we take their dollop of science and run with it. The higher the number, the greater the pucker factor. Done.
But the Richter scale is only a sliver of the seismic puzzle, only one data point in the more complex schematic of sphincter compression. For example, what the reports always omit is the duration of the event. An earthquake of 8.0 that only lasts 3 seconds will spill your coffee and call for a new set of briefs, but not much more. On the other hand, a 5.2 that shakes for a full minute can bury you and take down a city and its gilded towers.
Reports estimate that about 400,000 people participated in the Women’s March in New York City yesterday. But while size matters, those numbers barely scratch the surface of the seismic power of the day. They have presented a Richter number out of context, providing about as much information and insight as reporting only the number of pages in War and Peace.
The heart and soul of the story was in the tone and tenor of the march. Anger and defiance toward Trump’s misogyny and his inexcusable tolerance and explicit encouragement of racism and anti-Semitism (you are who you appoint and who you accept, e.g. Stephen Bannon and David Duke, to name just two) fueled our commitment. But the energy was uplifting, the mood jubilant, the solidarity inspiring and the behavior beyond civil.
Our voices echoed loudly, but the event was spectacularly peaceful.
Silence and inaction are acquiescence, and en masse, we bellowed that we do not acquiesce. For the first time since Trump’s victory, the second 911 of our lifetime, I felt a sense of hope. I felt the knot of political despair and abject disbelief loosen its grip.
From the moment my wife, two teenage kids and I boarded the standing-room-only 9:00 AM express train from Tarrytown, we felt the surge of goodwill, inclusion, and hope. That energy and power carried the day and most of the night.
Creative signage and sentiment set the tone.
“Love Trumps Hate”
“Make America Think Again”
“Don’t normalize, ORGANIZE”
“Get Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”
“Our Bodies. Our Choice”
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
“From Tea Party to Pee Party”
More references to “pussy” than you will find in a highlight reel from the porn industry or even Trump’s diary.
From my son, “Small hands, Small Pence”
And so the list and the signs marched on.
The attitude of gratitude and support spilled over from the march to restaurants, coffee shops and transportation hubs. In Grand Central Station, where it was taking women 30-40 minutes to negotiate the line to women’s room, women spontaneously began sharing the men’s room. In a move that would make Ted Cruz’s head explode and regions of North Carolina spontaneously implode, hardly a head turned, and a policeman on duty simply stepped in to advise that if your only interest was a urinal, you could enter on the left.
There were more conversations than chants, more encouragement to act than woeful laments. There were spontaneous waves of cheers, the first a rousing roar of support for a group of 20 or so police men and women walking ahead of the march.
Even a hapless driver who had failed to move his car off of 42nd street before the march began, got an emotional lift from the endless tide of marchers. He sat behind the wheel of his marooned car, shaking his head but laughing at himself. Two marchers handed him coffee and a sandwich.
And to the Trump supporter, who guardedly but insistently repeated the word “losers” from a corner perch near 42nd and 3rd, the crowd simply ignored him.
We had lined up for the March at noon and only made it a third of the route before we pulled out to catch the 3:57 home. As we made our way into Grand Central, we crossed over 42nd Street on the Park Ave overpass and looked down to see wall to wall people in both directions. The cheers continued to swell from the street below. That would go on well into the night.
The view looking down Park Ave to 42nd St about 4:00 PM
It wasn’t just that 400,000 people marched in New York yesterday. They were a fraction of a global phenomenon. They were loud, peaceful and defiant. They were female, male, and undecided. They were black, white, gay, straight, old, young, immigrant, native, Asian, Hispanic, white collar, blue collar, and t-shirted. They were Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, atheist and probably even Scientologist. Most importantly, they were there, together, in support of our mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, who should in no scenario still be debating their inalienable rights.
Trump will undoubtedly dismiss the day as an annoying tremor, a seismic belch that will elicit a brief flurry of tweets and a petty press secretary rant. My hope and sense is that we took part in a far more profound tectonic shift. A 7+ on the moral and intellectual Richter scale. The trick now will be duration. To consistently demand truth, illuminate and condemn injustice and ignorance, and shake the ground under the house of cards that is his administration’s flawed foundation.
Our crew a couple of hours into the march
Reggie and I on the move