March For (the hopeful) America

March for America 2010There is plenty to say about the political moment we find ourselves in after the March For America, but I wanted to take a moment to personally reflect on the day. While there is no way to do the full experience justice, I'm going to try.

Sunday, I was on the National Mall with 200,000 of my closest friends making history. The March For America exceeded my expectations as I watched communities from across the country come together to bring joy from suffering and hope from pain. I heard stories of people from across the country who were uniting to raise one voice for justice and humanity in our immigration system. I saw more American flags than I thought possible in one space. I felt the sun on my face as we "stood at the doorstep of history" and made our mark on this moment in time.

I was live-blogging the day on the March For America site and despite the shaky internet connection and the inch of dust on my laptop from the National Mall grounds kicked up during the party, I was able to capture a lot of the day and had the privilege of others joining me and commenting on the action.

For me of the most powerful thing about the day was the festive, almost jubilant mood that ran through the crowd. Despite the frustration we all felt and despite the continued terrorization of communities, the separation of families and the broken dreams, people were dancing in the streets.

On Sunday, a friend of mine in the crowd said this (via Twitter):

"Singing, smiling, hugs, music. This is not just a demonstration, its a fiesta."

In stark contrast, there were anti-immigrant counter-protestors throughout the crowd, trying to incite arguments and frame our day of triumph as an invasion of the scary, scary "illegals". At one point, a bodyguard of one of their leaders even assaulted a peaceful protestor.

The New York Times ran a great piece this morning comparing the March For America with the anti-healthcare rally from a small group of Tea Partiers just yards away from our 200,000 person crowd. The full piece is well worth the read, but the last few paragraphs especially bring it home:

Many tens of thousands of immigrants and allies were pressing for immigration reform. It’s an issue for which they have marched and waited, marched and waited — their hopes dashed repeatedly. Sunday’s rally was a demand for action.

“We’ve listened quietly. We’ve asked politely,” said Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat. “We’ve turned the other cheek so many times our heads are spinning.”

If anyone has reason to fear government, it is immigrants like those at the rally, which Mr. Obama addressed via a jumbo TV screen. The government has violently invaded their lives, broken into homes, torn parents from children and sent them away to distant prisons. They have law-scoffing sheriffs and brutal employers and unjust laws aiming just at them.

This is a fear the Kill-the-Billers will never know. No matter how darkly they loathe Medicare, unemployment insurance or Social Security, the safety net is theirs for life.

It’s usually best to avoid depicting life in black-white contrast. Not this time. Here were two rallies: one good, one loathsome. One hopeful, one paranoid. One trying to repair how Washington works for all America, and one looking to break it so the system can go on failing.

Kill the bill! Sí, se puede! Same beat, different drums. I’ll take the one that rings with patience and hope. Sounds more American.

Sunday showed me the best of what it means to be American - something that I don't always see from mass demonstrations on the Mall (to say the least). It was a day that gave our movement hope. It was a fiesta, it was la lucha and it was a breakthrough in the struggle to bring justice to the millions of people who live each day in fear. Sunday there was no fear, there was only hope and light. (And dancing).