Take a breath, prepare for next fight

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We made it through 2017. This is an accomplishment worth reflecting on for the trials and tumultuousness it has brought us.

Before the start of the year, many of us found ourselves exhausted from a prolonged campaign season, primary and election fight. I suppose if you’re like me, you felt like you were doing everything you could to keep it together on a daily basis after Nov. 8 and found yourself limping into the new year.

For me, that limp was bolstered by the energy and ideals of the Women’s March movement. Soon after my election haze wore off, I vowed to go to Washington, D.C., for the march. Only one other time had I been so energized to protest — when George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. However, I didn’t make it to Washington then.

But Jan. 21, 2017, was different. Our country was in a state I didn’t recognize. I could not sit by and watch from the sidelines. The issues, stakes, and timing were too important to ignore. I was on one of the eight buses that drove from Iowa to Washington.

The women, men and children on those buses each had their own reasons for attending, but we all shared a dismay and frustration with the future of our country. Health care, LGBT rights, the Black Lives Matter movement, the environment, and women’s rights were among our shared concerns. None was a fan of our latest president, but instead of simply condemning him, we focused on issues — what we cared about and were willing to fight for over the next four years.

The people I met on that trip and since have made this year bearable and hopeful.

I’ve said it several times, but attending the Women’s March on Washington was the best thing I have done in my life. The months since that day have reaffirmed that belief.

As many feared, the values and strides we have made have been under attack since day one of the current administration. It has been a fight — a relentless one that promises more to come. But we have been there at each turn standing for equality, justice, and the American way we know.

Since January, people all across the country have kept up the momentum inspired by the Women’s March, the Indivisible guide and many other grass-roots groups. We were at airports denouncing the travel ban, we were at congressional offices making our pleas for health care, we were at town halls calling on lawmakers to protect Dreamers, we were at coffee shops meeting with candidates for Congress, we were in public parks raising awareness on tax reform, we were in meeting rooms with congressional staffers (when they let us), and we were on social media constantly calling on our representatives to do their jobs and protect Iowans.

And if our president’s actions weren’t enough to keep us busy, this year we confronted what many have known was going on behind closed doors but either didn’t acknowledge publicly or dismissed as a character flaw, a product of a different time, or an unintentional gesture. Sexual harassment, something I thought we had moved past, came out of the shadows as women and men called out perpetrators and sought to end the stigma of assault with the hashtag “Me Too.”

While the sexual harassment revelations dominating the news have been tough to process, I know they have energized people everywhere to speak up, stand up, and demand better of leaders in all fields. I have hope we can change the pervasive “boys will be boys” culture that allowed this to be tolerated for so long. While the highest office still seems to be immune to the abuse fallout, well, as Bob Dylan famously sang, the times they are a changin’.

We have been through a lot, to say the least. So yes, making it through a year of all this is an accomplishment. And we know next year offers no letup in the intensity and importance of our involvement in this political fight.

In 2018 we will have the opportunity to elect our state’s next governor (that process starts with caucuses on Monday, Feb. 5), we will have midterm congressional elections, and we will have everything else the administration will throw at us.

Now is the time to reflect, recharge, and ready ourselves for a new fight.

• Erin Owen is a proud feminist, activist, and member of Indivisible Iowa SD33-35. She has protested consistently on her own dime and time since 2016.

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