Bruce Thompson is an adjunct instructor of philosophy at Palomar College. His Ph.D. is from the University of Colorado. His major emphasis in philosophy is critical thinking, formal logic, and American pragmatism. He is also a poet, violinist, and raiser of back yard chickens.
I’d like to thank all the people who showed up for the 2018 Women’s March in San Marcos…but, it really isn’t my place to do so. I didn’t do anything more than show up myself. I didn’t help organize; I didn’t do any publicity; I didn’t even make a sign with a clever slogan on it. Like the man who marched next to me for a while—he was wearing a ridiculous pink backpack with floral patterns on it, which shouted “I’m here for my infant daughter!” (His daughter, a feminist of the future, was in a stroller a few feet ahead of us.)—all I did is show up. But, I think those of us who just showed up did something important. Marches are sometimes dismissed as useless show, a futile exercise that accomplishes little. I disagree. I think marches matter.
History certainly supports that opinion. Certain marches have proven to be turning-points, too many indeed to list here. The civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement, etc. were all marked by memorable marches. The 2017 Women’s March will go down in history as well, and—who knows—maybe this year’s march will join it. Here are six reasons marches matter, listed in what I consider to be their reverse order of importance:
(6) Marches influence the public conversation. They attract news coverage; they publicize the important issues that motivate people to become active in politics. The more people who show up, the more publicity the march is likely to draw. Just showing up is important.
(5) Organizing marches is good practice. People who organize marches learn how to organize boycotts, campaigns, and voter drives—activities that can directly change our society and government.
(4) Marches energize people. A person who shows up for a march is almost certain to vote, even if the next election is months away. A person who shows up for a march is likely to do additional volunteer work—or even run for office.
(3) Marches are an opportunity to meet people who care about similar issues. Simply by showing up at the march I met people in my community who are active in the politics I care about. I got names, addresses, web-pages, etc., that connect me to further things I can do and other places where I can just show up.
(2) Marches are educational. By talking to people at the march I learned several things I didn’t know about the politics of my local community.
(1) Marches teach the value of political participation. People often show up to marches with their children. Those children catch the excitement of the event. They grow up caring about justice, and believing they can do something about it.
One of the great pleasures of participating in a march is seeing the signs that other people brought. My favorite from this march was: “We aren’t radicals. We are just informed citizens.”