As hard as many of us in Philadelphia think this year has been, and truly it’s been an unrelenting wave of madness unleashed by Donald Trump’s election, I can almost guarantee that MaryAnn Levins had it harder.
Levins, 72, came to the Women’s March from Shamokin, Pa. She is a unicorn – a Hillary voter in the middle of Trump Country who is unapologetically anti-Trump.
(Trump clobbered Clinton in Northumberland County by getting 24,418 votes, nearly 70 percent.)
Since the election, relationships with family and friends have been strained. She stopped going to a bakery she really liked when they plastered the place with Trump signs. And she has had to seek out places of respite as she resists, with her husband, on walks with a handful of like-minded people in a city in the middle of Pennsylvania that believes Trump is going to make good on his promise to bring coal back. Among those like-minded allies is the 93-year-old aunt Levins drove to the polls when other family members said they’d only take her if she voted for Trump.
Aunt Katie most certainly did not. “Even at her age, she knew better,” Levins said.
To stay sane, Levins said, she has become politically active and aware in a way she never had before. She tweets under a pseudonym, and every once in a while, she said, echoing something I heard a lot of during the march, she has a glass of wine. I forgot to ask what kind, but there are a few anti-Trump libations to choose from.
“It’s been hard,” Levins said, letting out a year’s worth of sighs. “You try not to bring it up, to keep things pleasant. You try to have conversations in hopes of changing minds, but …”
She’d traveled to Philadelphia to attend the march with her sister, Susan Kanoff, who lives in Chestnut Hill, where it’s much easier to find like-minded people.
A year into Trump’s administration, I wondered what the mood at the march would be. Last year, at the march in Washington, there were equal parts anger and shock. This year, in Philly, the shock seemed to have worn off. But the anger was not only present, it fueled a surge of activism and support. (To do my part, I promised Levins I’d visit her in Shamokin soon. I’ll bring moral support, and wine.)
Anger, many women at the march told me, is critical.
“What I’m really afraid of is that people from both sides of the political spectrum are normalizing what’s going on,” said Barbara Brecker. Brecker, who held a sign that read, “2018: Stay Angry,” traveled to Philly with a group of women from New Jersey. “Anger is an emotion that can be used positively to propel forward, as opposed to becoming complacent, becoming depressed, or becoming numb.”
Staying angry won’t be a problem for Kesha Gardner, a homemaker from Delaware who attended the march with her 13-year-old daughter, Jordyn, and her 12-year-old son, R.J.
Since the election, Gardner, who is African American, has found herself trying to temper her anger with white friends who still seem to want to straddle the middle ground in a fight for justice and equality where sides must be chosen.
Like Levins, she tries not to take it personally, and she hopes that if the conversations don’t lead to a change of heart, they at least get people thinking about what Trump’s presidency has been like for marginalized communities that have been targeted under his administration.
And like most of the women I asked, Gardner has found a way to let off steam: She runs.
Of all the things that women told me they are doing to keep their sanity in these insane times, running seemed to be the most fitting.
If this last year has taught us anything, it’s that the road back to our democracy under siege isn’t a race, but a marathon.