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Debra L. Ness, President

From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

A Moment, a March and a Movement Poised to Win the Policies Women and Families Need

Cross posted from Medium.

This isn’t the same country it was a year ago.

In his inauguration speech last January, the president declared, “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” He promised that “from this day forward, it’s going to be — always — America first.”

But many of us — including women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and people with special needs, disabilities and chronic illness — recognize that Trump’s federal government is putting all of us last. We’re fighting every day to avoid becoming the carnage of an administration that seems not to care at all about our lives and freedoms.

That inauguration speech, and much of the campaign dialogue that preceded it, alienated women, leaving many of us feeling threatened and at risk. That’s why, the day after Trump was sworn in, we protested in historic numbers at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and in hundreds of communities across the nation. The diversity of the marchers was remarkable and we all made somber promises that day: to keep fighting to protect our rights; to keep our nation true to its promise of refuge and opportunity; and to make the country we hand off to the next generation worthy of our children and their children.

In the year since, we have been tested like never before. The destructive, mean-spirited, divisive actions from the Trump administration have far eclipsed what any other administration in my lifetime has done to deepen oppression, deny opportunity and take our country backward.

The Trump administration has taken hundreds of destructive actions. Many touch on the most essential aspects of our lives — our access to health coverage and care, our ability to be paid fairly, our access to contraception and abortion care, our protections against sexual harassment, assault and rape. Others threaten to undermine our country’s core identity, slamming our doors to those who need refuge the most, treating immigrants with brutality instead of compassion, denying essential services and opportunities to those who struggle the most. Still others challenge our unity, and our most cherished values, by excusing or encouraging racism, misogyny, hatred, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia and nativism.

At times, it’s been hard to believe the ugliness that has come out of the White House. Demanding accountability has been complicated by the president’s wobbly relationship with truth, which many of us see as a strategy. It leaves people parsing what he meant, or whether what he said yesterday or what he said today is what he truly believes, when we should simply focus on the harms and dangers associated with what his administration is trying to do.

But a year into this fight for the soul of our country, we really have tallied some impressive successes. What began as a moment became a march that has since morphed into a powerful movement that is resisting, persisting and blocking hundreds of destructive actions — and is still gaining strength, as we saw at the huge one-year anniversary marches around the country this weekend.

To be clear, the losses have been painful and damaging. But one year after it started, the resistance is strong and growing stronger, and providing cause for hope. We’ve knit together movements, learned from our losses and fortified ourselves for what lies ahead.

The results have been tangible and meaningful. We blocked opponents from repealing the Affordable Care Act and taking coverage away from tens of millions of families not once, not twice, but three times. Federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides essential preventive and primary care for millions of women, continues. State and local officials are rallying against regressive policies in ways that inspire hope, including by advancing paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, minimum wage increases, protections against pay discrimination and more. There is long overdue, extraordinary attention being paid to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, especially in our nation’s workplaces and against women of color and those in lower-paying industries, thanks to the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements.

The challenges ahead in all these areas are serious, to be sure, but there is new strength in our alliances and shared fight. What began on the streets of America last January was evident again at marches this weekend and, even more importantly, it’s making a difference every day.

As the once-sleeping-giant of fair-minded people no longer takes progress for granted and instead resolves to fight for a better future, victory goes from possible to probable to inevitable. I believe the prescription for victory over the long term is centered on gender and racial equality and social and economic justice. If we take an unwavering stand against injustice, inequality and exclusion of every kind — and remain determined to help those who struggle the most and face the greatest barriers — we can emerge from this fight stronger than we have ever been. The bridges we are building and deepening — between young and old, the environmental and LGBTQ communities, those who care about women’s rights and those who work to support refugees and immigrants, reproductive health leaders and communities of color, for instance — will endure long after the immediate threats are gone.

We will continue even then, taking this fight to the polls — to voter registration offices and voting booths from Alabama to Alaska. We will continue the fight until every person can get a quality education, live in safety and have a real opportunity to thrive — until nobody experiences discrimination, every individual and family has quality, affordable health care, every woman can determine her reproductive destiny and all people have a real chance at economic security.

This isn’t the same country it was a year ago — and what it will become is up to us. I see that as good news.


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