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ROAD TRIP

by Baņuta Rubess

This is an article I wrote for the popular Latvian magazine Ir. It was published on January 19 and you can see it here. The English version is a tad ruder than the Latvian one. 

It’s been ages since I knit something. Now I made a pussyhat. It’s pink and has two ears that prick up. The word pussyhat is a witty riposte to America’s president-elect Donald Trump who bragged of assaulting women by grabbing them between their legs. The hat turns his insult into a visual object. Like Pussy Riot’s face masks, it’s a symbol of resistance, and I’m going to wear it in Washington on January 21. That’s  the day after the presidential inauguration, a great day to make somebody’s splitting-headache-hangover even more splitting, by joining the Women’s March. I look forward to Trump’s tweets. Pink hats are stupid. So many pussies, not enough grabbing. Sad.

My friend Naomi organized a bus to take a bunch of us from Toronto. She is a producer for the theatre festival Luminato and her network includes a lot of artists: directors, writers, actresses, filmmakers, professors and teachers. The March is so inspiring that a friend who couldn’t go herself paid the bus fare for One Young Feminist instead.

We check our passports. We pore over information distributed the organizers in Washington. They tell us where to go and what to take with us. Backpacks aren’t allowed. Wheelchairs and elderly are welcome. Children – think carefully. The ACLU sent out a leaflet telling us how to talk to the police, what to do if you’re arrested.

Posters can’t have sticks, because they could be used as weapons. We just made a whole bunch of pink flags with cardboard poles and banners with pink maple leaves and slogans like Nasty Women of the North. Women’s Rights are Human Rights. My Pussy My Rules. Kleptocracy is not Democracy. Bullies Make Bad Lovers.

The ride will last about twelve hours. Hotels in Washington are expensive, so we plan to sleep overnight on the bus. We’ll demonstrate all Saturday, go back late the same night. We’ ll be stiff and sore, but it’ll be worth it. The renowned Woolly Mammoth theatre is opening its doors early in the morning so we can decamp there, and organizing a Spoken Word event after the demonstration so we can hang and wait for our bus.

A lot of buses are going from Canada, and in fact, I could also stay at home. There’s a sister march in Toronto. Canadians as a whole disapprove of Trump. Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put together a cabinet made up of 50% women. When asked why he did it, Trudeau said ‘because it’s 2016.’ Maybe Trump prefers 1913, when women weren’t allowed to vote, and blacks weren’t allowed to sit next to whites in a restaurant. That year was the first time there was a Women’s March in Washington.

Canada won’t have an easy time with Trump. We don’t share the same priorities.  We pressured our government to bring over more refugees, faster, sooner. Toronto is made up of people from every country in the world. In the subway, a handsome man with a stunning yellow turban offers his seat to a dishevelled elderly white woman; a Chinese man kisses his Japanese wife goodbye; a tall black woman re-arranges her tower of braids, while I reflect upon how tolerance, kindness, and good manners are primary Canadian values, which Trump does not share. (Trudeau will not attend the inauguration.)

Why would a bunch of Canadians poke their noses into American business? For one thing, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with our American sisters, but not only because the country is our biggest neighbour. We might not live in the US, but the US  lives in us – whether we like it or not.

We’re standing up for women, that’s our primary motivation. Trump is a childish bully who prefers women to be beauty queens, prostitutes, or servants, as long as they are submissive. Smart and strong women make him want to hit something, usually them. He is the patriarchy unzipped, as Rebecca Solnit said. His Breitbart advisors have deliberately attacked individual women and women’s rights in general.

But  Trump doesn’t just hate women, Trump hates democracy. He dismisses anyone who isn’t a member of his family or isn’t a white male (unless they are brown males who promise to make him money). He tries to annihilate those who disagree with him. He hates facts and the free press. He pisses on the truth. He is an anti-democrat who exploited his TV star status to promise the moon, and whose braggadocious performance will be mimicked by bullies across the world.

That’s why I’m marching in Washington, where my pink hat can join a sea of thousands.

A friend warned me – what if you get arrested? What if you get blacklisted, and you can’t cross the US border aymore? I’ve been blacklisted before, by the Soviet government. I wasn’t allowed into Soviet Latvia from 1980 to 1989 because my democratic convictions were a threat to the Soviet system. If I can’ t travel to New York City for a while, that will be sad. But it’s a small price, given the stakes. It’s very unlikely, and I’m not afraid.

Actually, I’m more afraid of writing this article than going to the march. Women who have spoken out against Trump have been viciously attacked on social media. They receive rape threats and death threats. Therefore, dear would-be commentator: if you love Trump, stay chill. After all, your candidate won, thanks to democracy and an antiquated voting system. I challenge you to prove that he – and you – are worthy of respect.

In the meantime, I’m going on a road trip. The Poles had a great word for why: Solidarnosc – solidarity. They splashed it across banners in the 1980s and went to jail for democracy. Fighting for democracy, in 1989 hundreds of people joined hands along a long stretch of Baltic highway. Symbols are powerful, even a little pink hat. Trump can’t stand being mocked. How we will laugh at him, clicking our knitting needles.

 

 

 

 

 

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