Yesterday I had the great privilege of being able to join the New York City Women’s March. I marched with my oldest and best friend, her boyfriend, and my cousin’s girlfriend. We arrived a little before 2 pm and marched until about 6:30 pm, throughout midtown Manhattan. It was quite a feeling to be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who were peacefully marching – and even more special to see my friends around the country doing the same. Whether people marched for Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, immigrant rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, or anything else, everyone had a reason to be there. For me, my reason was reflected in a sign I found midway through the march.
When I looked at this picture last night, I couldn’t believe that the I hadn’t noticed the sign in the background, “Leadership Requires Empathy.” As someone who has focused much of my work in the leadership development space on empathy, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Now, I know that the sign I carried will not resonate with everyone, and that is okay. We all have definitions of right and wrong, and we each see the world through our unique lens, which has been developed based on our life story. For me, as an independent, it means that we once again need to focus on bridging the divide that has pushed the people in our country apart. We cannot continue to live and fight as an “us vs. them” or “I’m right, you’re wrong” society. We must come together in pursuit of a place where there is less fear, less hate, and more equality and love.
While the march was important and empowering and gave an outlet and voice to many, there was one theme that I just couldn’t quite accept. And that was bullying. As children, we learn to treat others as we want to be treated, and that we do not need to stoop as low as the person against us. Let me first say, that the vast majority were not participating in bullying, and were bringing forth their real, valid concerns. However, I saw many signs and heard so many cries about the orange man, the man with tiny hands, and some that are far too inappropriate to share here. While I completely believe in the freedom of speech and do understand that people must express the hurt they are feeling, I also think that as people who live in this country, we can do better. There are so many reasons to not like or respect Donald Trump, but we do not need to bully him or others in order to get there – as much as it may seem like that’s the only option he’s given us. Instead we need to (as many signs said) rise above the hate and love everyone, even those that we completely disagree with. While Trump has said truly awful things about so many people, we do not need to say them back.
In order to move forward, we need to come together, stop making fun of one another (both sides have been guilty plenty of times), get out of our echo chambers, and learn to listen and speak productively. I realize my thoughts here might provoke some, and will anger others, but that’s okay. I’d always rather say what I feel than stay silent. And I truly think that is the only way we will be able to accept the current reality, heal, and move forward because the fight for human rights is far from over. This presidential election just highlights the importance of working harder to create the justice we so desperately need in this country, and in this world.