I Attended The Million Women March And It Triggered My Anxiety

I Attended The Million Women March And It Triggered My Anxiety

Only a few times in my life have I felt like I was about to faint from being in small spaces or been terrified by huge crowds of people--This time, I felt both.
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Only a few times in my life have I felt like I was about to faint from being in small spaces.

I was ripping insulation out from underneath a woman’s house after a flood in Louisiana with my AmeriCorps FEMA Corps team. Army crawling, chin-deep in sewage, breathing in scratchy pink particles, narrowly avoiding huge millipedes and using the wet, sinking mud beneath me to navigate.

Only a few times in my life have I been terrified by huge crowds of people.

Keene State College was almost nationally known for their Pumpkin Festivals, until 2014 when things got out of control. It was a quaint New England family event where Main Street shut down and rows of carved pumpkins lined the downtown, but that year was different.

There were thousands of people roaming the streets and the larger than usual police presence was apparent. Some groups ripped street signs out of the ground and formed small mobs chanting, “USA! USA!” collectively down the streets, but it was that night when letting loose truly turned into wreaking havoc.

I was in the apartment of my then boyfriend watching the lines of police surround the glowing flames that radiated from a car flipped upside down. From a few floors up, a block away and behind closed windows, we could hear bottles crashing and the undecipherable shouts from the rioters. Months after it happened I could still hear them when I slept at night, I could still see the Molotov cocktails being tossed into the night sky.

At the time, I was unsure why it had affected me so deeply, after all, I was near it, but never in the thick of it. Everyone else on campus seemed to get past it relatively quickly. It was still very much the subject of conversations with teachers and students alike, but I did not notice too many who were bothered by it the way I was. Then I was probably too caught up in my own thoughts to notice anyway.

I know now why it haunted me.

It stuck deeply in my subconscious because there was no great purpose to the destruction, it was rioting for rioting sake. It was mob mentality. It was large groups of primal young people seeing how far they could go. While there should be no appropriate time for riots to take place, often it seems that something happens politically or otherwise to cause the collective behavior.

This time, I felt both.

At the Million Women March, the million women, men and children were a pointillist painting masking the streets of D.C., not a speck of gray pavement to be seen. Touching me on all sides were strangers to me, except for my mother of course. The fear coursing through me was that at any moment the ripple effect could take over and things could cease to be peaceful.

When my mother and I were initially released from the packed subway onto L’Enfant Station we found more and more crowds forming, and once the mass we were in finally made it to the station exit, there was a stand-still. The crowds kept filing in and filing in, making the surroundings increasingly more compact. The station workers were deciding how to best let the masses get through out into the masses at street level.

“There’s no way out,” someone in the crowd yelled. At this point, I was already light headed from the compact subway ride and feeling the imaginary whoosh of the train making its stops pushing through me, even after we stepped onto the stationary platform. After I heard the man’s voice yell out perhaps the worst statement you could make to a large group of people basically underground, the fear set in. All those horror movies with absurd plots about what happens when technology fails and masses of people are left to their animal instincts, came to mind. My breathing became increasingly shallowed and my head, faint.

The thing that I believe kept me from passing out was a simple mantra: “don’t fall”. I knew that if I fell I could easily get trampled as people were shuffling through as quickly as they could.

I thought of the man who was accidentally stomped to death by the herds of shoppers rushing into Walmart on Black Friday in 2008, but little did I know: this crowd was different.

“Don’t fall, don’t fall,” I focused my thoughts.

Finally.

“Single file, one at a time,” a station worker shouted. He was letting us go through one by one, and at that moment I could feel the tension leave my body as people were moving and empty space around me appeared.

The relief was fleeting and would come in waves, but never truly left me. We found ourselves moving from one huddle of people to the next. I was a small dot in a sea of humanity, but outside it seemed less threatening. There was still the potential of something setting it off and creating a domino effect of disaster, but it seemed as though the crowds silently decided that it wouldn’t.

There were babies in carriages, people and families of all shapes and sizes. This had to be a peaceful movement and while it did cause anxiety in more than just myself, no fire was set and no hatred emerged.

There are few words to describe the unfamiliar feeling of at times paralyzing fear and ultimately real pride and hope I experienced January 22, 2017.


Check out my footage from the march:


Cover Image Credit: Hannah Sundell

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Evidence, The Most Important Foundation

A real world example of why data rather than emotion should be used in an argument
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As I was thinking of relevant topics to write about, I figured this is one of the most controversial as it is so necessary, yet it is not used to the degree we need to. Of course, one could claim that as I am someone studying the sciences; I have a bias and what I say in this article should be taken with a grain of sand. In an effort to show that evidence really is an unbiased issue, I will provide real life examples.

Within the last year and a half or so, during Trump’s presidency, Kellyanne Conway referenced “Alternative Facts” while discussing a topic of importance. This quickly became a fast spreading joke as people recognized the foolishness that is no two opposing statements can really be true in light of facts. This was laughed off, but it really shows the state of where we are as a society. Regardless of the evidence that provides truth, people still hold on to their beliefs. They even cite examples of exceptions as a reason to disprove an entire argument. Let me provide a crystal clear example of why that is not an acceptable retort. Gravity is something we experience all the time. It is what keeps us on the ground and ensures that we will not float into space where we would simultaneously freeze and burn at the same time. However, one of the most well known exceptions to the rule is helium. Helium is less dense than air and because of that, it floats to the top of the substance that is more dense - air. Now, because the balloon filled helium does not mean that the entire law of gravity is wrong. It simply means that other scientific forces create that exception to the law. This same logic, for example, applies to the immigrant/DACA/Dreamer issue today. Now, I am not going to go into explicit detail, but I will provide references below. Broadly speaking, those part of the Republican party and the President believe that immigrants simply come into the country to kill, steal, and “mooch” off of our welfare system. Data shows the opposite of those claims, however. Those in the DACA program, for example, actually contribute quite a bit to the economy. Greater than 90% in the program actually have jobs and there are immigrants that have become military members to fight for the country they seek refuge in. Now I am sure there are exceptions to those rules such as Mexicans who are part of the drug cartel or even people who come from countries of muslim origin who commit terrorist attacks. The reality is much different in that there have been significantly more domestic terror attacks by whites in this country than people of color. A person is actually more likely to be killed by a falling vending machine, shark, or even falling down stairs than being killed in a foreign terror attack. This relates back to the Law of Gravity example because even though there are exceptions to the reasons to the (primarily democrat) effort to keep immigrants safe in the country, that is not a viable reason to enact such radical policies to keep them out. Now of course, the issue of illegal immigrants is certainly prominent but arguably that is more a problem with the system itself and many of those people have been proving immigration policies futile. I am not saying I think illegal immigration is justified, but I think the data needs to be looked at and incorporated into any future improved policies.

The real point of this article is to tell people of this country that before you decide to get into a debate over a controversial topic, think about the facts first before letting your emotions guide your argument. Evidence has done wonders for the field of science ( science, engineering, mathematics, astronomy, etc.) and has gotten us where we are today. Try using it in your everyday life instead of reacting with emotion to something. Who knows, you may just change your position on an issue.

Cover Image Credit: les Inrockuptibles

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Forget Professional Neutrality: It's Time to Post Politics

When we're walking the wire, it's not unprofessional to tweet politics - it's necessary citizenship.
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For those of us that grew up in the information age, the memory of someone in our lives warning of the dangers of speaking your mind too freely online isn't too distant. Now more than ever, our social media has become self-branding, networking, proof of our relevance and ability to behave with tact in an adjacent public sphere, and an archive for which others can do quiet research on us with or without our full knowledge.

As a result, teachers, advisers, and guidance counselors tell us to keep vulgarity and base humor out of the picture and follow the rules of "polite company": if you won't say it around children or in front of your grandmother, keep it off public profiles. The idea is our social queues of whose immediately present don't extend into an entire friend's list past, present, and future anymore than it covers the college applications, interviewers, or even future in-laws that might be scouring the web for an insight into you as a human being. There are real-life consequences for slipping up - missing out on a scholarship, losing a job, or even offending a potential friend or networking contact without realizing the first thing that comes up with your name on Google is a heinous tweet from 2010 or a less-flattering photo that you should have never been tagged in. What's appropriate on a Saturday night with peers might not be so great at 9am on a Monday in an office when an assistant does a quick reputation-check before your meeting with a hiring manager. Or how a revenge post of intimate photos from your ex can turn into a career-ruining nightmare.

When posting, many of us know better than to post without considering the broadest possible audience that could potentially see it. When thinking of this "polite company" rule, however, does it extend into all social graces? What about the controversies your mother begs you to dodge at family reunions, like politics and religion?

I've personally given this consideration a great deal of thought this past year. All of my core values, personal research, sense of humanity and ethics, ideological views, and belief in human decency feel strongly opposed to the Trump administration. As a man proud of prejudice, a long history of mistreating people, and the ability to make absolutely anything and everything extremely personal (one look at his Twitter account makes it clear his world is distorted into an extreme worship-Trump or "losers-that-despise-Trump" binary), he brings up more than traditional platform debates. Is it talking politics to say "grab them by the p****" is offensive, predatory, evidence that counts towards a horrifying amount of sexual assault accusations, and misogynistic? Is it talking politics to say that his first campaign speech was full of unfounded racism? Is it talking politics to say we should be horrified that he is stealing national money to fund golf trips and keep his wife living in partially-estranged luxury in New York City? Is it talking politics to say that him insulting another nation for whom we have been on the brink of nuclear war for decades is terrifying, dangerous, and one of many acts of a mad man?

If he himself refuses to behave with professionalism and the usual boundaries of political rhetoric, and as I would argue, refuses to act presidential while being entirely unfit for office, is it talking politics to return that same lack of decorum?

After a certain point, is it even ethical that I'm concerned about retweeting a damning post from a meaningful and qualified contributor because I'm a senior wondering if a potential future employer will like Trump, or the absence of objectivity will harm a chance at professional or graduate-study journalistic pursuits? Is that not selling out? When is it bad judgement or poor manners to speak your mind, and when does it become blatantly unethical not to?

Well, now. We've crossed that line.

The amount of tongue-biting it takes to be polite and professional, particularly online, is more difficult some nights more than others under this administration for me. The State of the Union address was one of them.

It is a national tragedy is that I'm a 20-something studying in nowhere, Massachusetts with no presently immediate impact on global affairs and I have exerted more self-control and impulse-tweet-filtering in the last 24 hours than POTUS during his entire campaign.

Which is saying a great deal, because about 3 hours ago the words "orange devil" (only a conservative step down from my usual quip of 'cheeto demon' and some timely Oscar Wilde quotes) found their way to a Facebook post. It's not as though I slipped on my keyboard - creativity is coping, and disoriented rage is the fallback for those of us running on fumes. Presuming we survive the next three years and find a replacement that doesn't continue the constant threat of an impending reign of terror (I'll take anything closer to 44 than 45 at this point), the nation will need a time of healing and rest after. (Not to mention, the challenges ahead for presidential predecessors in damage repair are mounting daily.)

It's alarmingly easy to open-mouth-insert-foot in the land of eternal records, where history cannot die - only haunt you - and everything you say lasts forever: the internet. Sometimes, though, you have to say something. Sometimes the world is too strange, extreme, and exaggerated for satire to wrap its mind around, and our traditional civility is bought out, chewed up, or banned from the White House press room. There's a call to action and the rules don't apply as they used to.

Tweets. Picketing. Marching. Praying. Donating. Something to speak up and speak out. It's a moral imperative, a personal compulsion, and a coping mechanism - a matter of sanity,a question of the right side of history, and a need those of us staring in horror to have a solidarity as a band aid restoration over lost faith in humanity.

It's why we're all asking the same questions:

Anyone else seeing this? Anyone else HEARING this?

Anyone else crossing themselves every time they update themselves on breaking news and the global state of the affairs?

It's not just me right?

Is existential dread just a sign of the times?

If it feels like you're on thin ice, can we really afford not to be deliberately political? We're living in slippery-slope times where everything we say and do and are becomes inherently political. Some people are more conscious of this designation than others - particularly those whose personal lives can be destroyed, frayed, threatened, or even ended because of a powerful rich stranger's opinions - the kind that become legislation - on their rights to live and exist.

We can't be distant from politics now, even those of us who don't feel wired for those conversations and lack general interest. Those with certain privileges have the luxury of being theoretical about it - they live bulletproof lives and can walk through political battlefields unscathed, treating policy like hobbyist ideology with nothing on the line. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should ignore what's happening and affecting those around you. Just because you're here doesn't mean you relate to drafted boots on the ground.

Refusing to make a meaningful, ethical contradiction to the world you don't want to see isn't just keeping your head down or not taking a stand -- it's pure complacency. If you don't understand now, after all this time, why that's the most dangerous thing you can do, take a walk to the library. Pick up Elie Wiesel.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay.com

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