By Emily Hausheer, M.A. student
It was a brisk Friday morning as I awoke from my apartment on Capitol Hill. Waking up on the day of the March for Life to a view of the Hart Senate Office building was a striking difference from the bus I once took from Liberty University to DC through the early hours of the morning to get a good spot in the crowd.
Listening to “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, the classic song of protest from Les Miserables, while sipping coffee, I made my way down the street to the Library of Congress for some early-morning reading. Already, I saw forces from both sides of the March assembled at the Supreme Court. By the time I emerged from the Library, the Supreme Court was totally blocked off and a zone of confrontation, so I took the Metro and went underground to continue my adventure.
Arriving at the Organization of American States, I enjoyed some Colombian coffee with empanadas while trying to contact my classmates. I then walked down to Bolivar Square, named for the same Simon Bolivar who once called the murder of unborn children a “vile crime.” I learned this while going through his entire correspondence collection as a project in my M.A in Human Rights program. That square, as small as it is, was already packed with school groups and buses. Alas! Probably not the best place to meet my classmates. The five of us each had perfect vantage points for the March – all for five different grand stories. Our styles and tactics are as diverse as the movement itself. In my typical fashion, I quickly walked from place to place and covered much ground. Still, I was in for a surprise upon emerging from Bolivar Square.
By that time, I thought I must have missed the President’s speech. I was wrong. The presidential motorcade came through as I stood and caught a glimpse of him waving. Alas, Mr. President! I opposed the idea of politicizing such a march, because for me, the right to life is an issue that should transcend the partisan labyrinth of American politics.
Not long after while standing on the grass outside of the American History Museum, I ran into an old classmate from Liberty University! I also texted several other friends who were at the “barricades” (to carry on the Les Mis theme). The atmosphere at the March, while still triumphant, was a bit different from previous years in ways I will explain later. I caught up with a couple of my Catholic University classmates. We chatted and eventually found the director of our program, Dr. William Saunders. The crowd was diverse with representatives from many nations: I saw the flags of Poland, Slovakia, Vatican City, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Italy, and Ireland (just to name a few).
As for the Trump issue, that was the most striking difference I saw. I disagree with many of his politics and I’m not a fan of his leadership style. I noticed many people with Trump gear, which I disapproved of. I noticed vendors selling gear to promote Trump and, while I respect the free market, I do not think such an important protest and cause should be turned into a popular personality or identity politics. Even if it had been for a president I like, I think that the issue of life should transcend politics and unite us all. It is an issue of human rights that is greater than any one politician.
My classmates and I had some interesting discussions on topics ranging from denominational discussions (I’m a Protestant from a very Protestant background) to history. As we marched together, we were able to come together in solidarity about the issues of life and how we are all created equal in the sight of God. We saw some very divisive signs from both sides, which defeats the point. Human rights are greater than our politics and we should all rally behind life. If we continue to let identity politics divide us, it will be easier for those who want to harm human rights to misuse our passion. We should not divide those who are different from us, but show love to people of all groups and creeds.
Our nation is at a turbulent time of division and polarization. We identify so strongly with our groups that outsiders are villainized. It is a refreshing breath of air to stand side by side in solidarity as we fight for those who cannot speak for themselves.
It was triumphant to march up Capitol Hill. The closed Newseum’s First Amendment still stood on the outside of the building. The Capitol itself was a beacon of glory from every angle, a place of both immense history and architectural splendor. In the corridors of that grand building so much history has been made, and perhaps a grand future waits to be made as well. I smiled as I glanced to the marble steps where so many presidents have sworn to uphold the constitution, where so many feet have trod with eyes open in wonder.
After finishing a project on Venezuela during an congressional internship, I could not help but be grateful for the right to protest. This right has a long and rich history in the American tradition, going back to the Boston Tea Party (which my ancestors took part in!). It is so easy to take this right for granted, but we must take the long view and realize that there are still people in the world who cannot protest. People in countries such as Venezuela and Hong Kong risk their lives raising their voices. Meanwhile, we in countries like the United States, France, Poland, and others, are prone to losing our sense of how important this right really is. While the right to protest is occasionally abused, it is a right we should all uphold and hope that others around the world may someday be as free as we are to address the government about our grievances.
The right to life, just like the right to protest, is one that may not often pass our minds. These are rights that are innate and natural to us all regardless of our creed. Sadly, these rights are denied to so many around the world. But just because rights are denied does not mean we should not speak for them. Whether we are marching on the Capitol or walking to a local coffee shops, we should always be ready to have productive discussions with those views may differ from our own about the issue that matters the most: humanity.