My daughter is deeply disappointed in me. She does not think it’s fitting to have any criminal record. She understands why I’ve recently turned to a scofflaw life, but she does not approve. It has taken almost 45 years to discover my hidden talent and passion for being arrested. I cannot believe I’ve lived this long with only a traffic ticket, or two (for the record, there were two), up until now.
Non-violent protest and civil disobedience have a long history. I’ve been active in non-violent protest for a couple years, and I realize it was not soon enough. I use these activities to channel my outrage over policies and actions that hurt our country, damage our world, dehumanize people. I protest and write postcards and man phone banks because I’m trying in my small way to impact the country and world my children live in. I register voters and display signs and talk to my kids about current issues and history.
And yet I felt so helpless. A week ago, I went to a protest in Washington, D.C. with a friend. We joked we would get arrested. We planned on marching and chanting for a few hours, and then we would head home for dinner plans. The day unfolded in unexpected ways, but each moment presented with options. We each chose options that felt right to each of us. We were surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of women and men and allies who were mindful to hold a safe place for mindful reflection and decision-making. There was no judgment, no pressure, no expectations.
There were many different ways to support the non-violent protest. I chose to peacefully protest and risk arrest if necessary. Getting arrested was not a goal. But I decided I would if it came down to it. My friend chose to not risk getting arrested. I am so thankful for her, her patience, her support. She, like every one of the hundreds of supporters, was vital. She stood firm on the steps of the Capitol and shouted her passions to the world. I am so proud of her.
The day was life changing for me, and I learned many things. One of which is that her friendship is a true friendship. Here are the practical tips in case you can’t be friends with her too: bring extra cash for others who may not have the money to post. Let your friends know you will not be able to communicate with them for many, many hours. Eat beforehand like it’s your last supper–you have no idea how long you’ll be held. If you need medications, bring only what you need, and ensure it’s properly documented that it’s prescribed for you. There is no Suggestion Box or Customer Service Survey for improving efficiencies and productivity in jail.
Hundreds of us were held for over seven hours. In those 420 minutes, we learned about each other. We learned where each of us lived, what our passions were, what our outrage was about, what our families looked like. We cheered each other on every time someone’s name was called for processing or to be released, like a continual kindergarten graduation ceremony. We stared into the eyes of courage and passion and kindness.
We accepted and supported each other without hesitation, even before trading first names. Being handcuffed and seated does not allow for much mingling. Yet we managed to pass money to each other to ensure that everyone had enough money to post, we scratched each other’s noses and shoulders, we pushed glasses up, swiped hair out of each other’s eyes, and picked up dropped items, all while handcuffed. Being called “prisoners,” being barked at, not knowing what time it was, not knowing what was next, did not dampen our collective support and love and kindness. It amplified the best of humanity.
As I learned more about each beautiful, brave, kind person, I realized this is the moment of all moments. I try to act like the person I want to be. Of all moments to do so, more than any other moment, this was now. I realized I must be THIS woman, for the women who cannot. I have the privilege of my race, life situation, and finances to engage in civil disobedience, so I must do so for all of us. For the people who can’t get arrested because they’re racially profiled daily, for the people who can’t get off work to protest, for the people who don’t have the money to post the fine, for the people who don’t have the family/social support to stand publicly, for the people who don’t have the agency, means, safety to take a stand. Seeing my privilege last week was eye opening, and makes me more determined to double down on this fight.
People tell me I am brave. At first I said “No, I’m just pissed off.” But I realize I am brave. I am brave because I am scared, and I refuse to bow down to fear. That’s it, that’s all brave is. Brave is merely forward momentum as your inner voice whispers, as your heart pounds violently, as you wonder what you’re made of. You can be brave and scared at the same time. I am scared of a lot of things.
I will tell you what I really fear. I fear raising my children in a world where sexual assault is normalized because that means we continue to dehumanize and invalidate women as equals. I fear raising my children in a world where lying, deflecting, and blaming are the baselines that define success. I fear raising my children in a world where people excuse and accept and engage in inappropriate behavior to further their end goals. I fear raising my children in a world where hypocrisy is a norm instead of challenged. I fear raising my children in a world where we dehumanize others, where we insulate with those similar to us, where it’s better to win than it is to help.
I refuse to live in a world where we lash out in punitive actions, belittle and mock others, gaslight and lie for any reason. I refuse to live in a world where our self-serving interests come first. I refuse to live in a world that does not believe we all rise together. I refuse to live in a world where people do not critically think, where people are not curious, where people think beliefs are facts.
And so these fears and refusals fuel my resistance, my protest, my courage. I have the agency and means to do what I can to make this world a place my children deserve. I have the obligation to take a stand for the people who cannot. My daughter understands this, and I know one day she will be as proud as I am about my arrest. I hope that one day I get the calls to bail both of my children out of jail for their civil disobedience. Those calls will surely become my proudest moments.