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Marching On

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By NIKKI RILEY  |  Truckee

On Nov. 8, 2016, American voters elected a man to become president who bragged about sexually assaulting women. I believed the words and actions of Donald Trump would supersede his ability to be elected. I was wrong. The day after the election I felt the wind knocked out of me. I felt what millions of others have felt their entire lives, a sense of not belonging. Wanting to channel my hurt and frustration into something tangible, I flew to Washington D.C. to take part in the Women’s March on Jan. 21. The event was a sea of diversity; a spectrum of color and gender and age. I took pause to acknowledge that my struggle pales in comparison to the struggles some people have fought over a lifetime. By virtue of my skin color I am removed from so much racism and discrimination. By virtue of my place of birth in California, I am exempt from extreme alienation and oppression. But still, I feel pain. This is why I marched. If we do not open ourselves to the stories of those who walk in shoes different than our own, how will we ever end oppression?

For some, it is a relief that this event has come and gone; they welcome business as usual. “Enough with the whining women and their cohorts who are upset that Trump won the election. Get over it,” they say. For me it signals the beginning of a new era. An era of standing up for the rights of all and challenging the threats that have been and continue to be leveraged against our citizens and our immigrant allies. In my opinion, the march was a call to action. An uprising of individuals who saw their fragile civil liberties at risk of further eradication. Fear of an uncertain future excluding the voices of those who represent the vast fabric of our nation. Leaving only a singular voice. A voice that views women as non-equal citizens.

Millions of people participated in marches across the globe on Jan. 21 to signify their solidarity in a movement. This was a turning point as evidenced by the continued activism. The travel ban imposed by Trump was met with a swift and powerful response. Thousands swarmed airports in solidarity with those detained or refused entry into the U.S. People are attending town hall meetings across the nation to make themselves heard. Women are signing up in record numbers to get involved politically. This is how change is made.

I recognize my responsibility to give back and fight not only for my rights, but also for the rights of others. I have felt the burn of oppression throughout my life, as a woman and as a person of Jewish descent. This experience has heightened my ability to reflect and have empathy. But suffering is not a prerequisite to empathy. Humankind will evolve if we allow ourselves the space to listen and not judge. Our capacity for love is great and it includes everyone.

~ Nikki Riley lives in Truckee with her husband Brendan, their sons Dylan and Harlan, Ajsa the dog, and a coop full of chickens. She works as the development director for Mountain Area Preservation, splitting her time as an advocate for the environment and social justice issues, and making art and architecture.

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The Opinion Page is your place to spout off. This section contains letters to the editor and longer My Shot pieces. Also, the Spout features two bimonthly perspectives — In the Past, delving into Tahoe Truckee history, and In the Moment, an artistic musing of a moment today.

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April 12, 2018