Marches are powerful things.
They are a necessary visual reminder that we are not alone. They help provide a sense of agency in dark days, to right size the threats that seem so towering and overpowering. They give us a chance to stand with a tribe of affinity and be a tangible response to the things that burden us.
Marches are awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing, breathtakingly cathartic moments.
But marches don’t vote.
They can’t craft legislation and they won’t protect people in danger. Marches won’t jettison corrupt leaders from their well-fortified perches of power. They can’t reach into the labyrinthine hallways and cloistered rooms where those charged with protecting us, decide our fates. They can’t tip the scales of our political process back toward balance.
All over this nation, millions of Americans, stood in a public space with a small army of like hearted people and loudly declared the America we desire and the America we will not abide.
We spoke out against senseless violence and predatory politicians and toxic systems. We cheered and applauded and exhorted one another, and we cultivated hope together for one another. It was so very good for the weary soul starved for hope.
But even as I basked there in the radiant glow of disparate people, assembling to celebrate life and demand its defense; even as I joyfully gorged on the Tweets and photos streaming in from similar gatherings through the country; even as my eyes widened at the scale of the outpouring; even as I wiped the tears from my eyes at the courage of teenagers—I realized it could easily be for not.
Marches are indeed powerful things but they can’t hold a candle to votes.
Marches can encourage imperiled people for a day. Votes can save them for a lifetime.
To those who coordinated carpools and painted signs and braved rain and weathered heat and endured the taunts of angry people this weekend: this can’t be a landing pad, it has to be a launching pad.
As beautiful as the #MarchForOurLives was (and it surely was), if it doesn’t catalyze us into participating in and changing the political landscape, it will have been an exercise in self-medication; a temporary high that for a moment allows us to escape but does nothing to alter the terrifying reality we find ourselves in.
So here in the afterglow of such clear and glorious goodness, the real work begins.
We need to register to vote.
We need to register others to vote.
We need to canvas neighborhoods.
We need to financially support political candidates committed to equality, diversity, and justice; to build social media groups and community organizations and interfaith partnerships; to be as focused over many months as we were for a few days.
- This is how we protect our children.
- This is how we eject predatory politicians.
- This is how we collapse the gun lobby.
- This is how we dismantle the fake news of FoxNews.
- This is how we eradicate white supremacy in Government.
- This is how we protect Muslims and refugees and immigrants.
- This is how we protect students and teachers from terror.
- This is how we stand with bullied gay teenagers.
- This is how we care for poor families and sick children and elderly couples.
- This is how we help America be its best self.
In the wake of acts of gun violence at schools, millions of young people inspired and challenged us all in bold activism and we praised them applauded them.
- They need us to do more than praise and applaud them.
- They need us to do more than turn their images into icons we wear on our chests.
- They need us to do more than shower them with our accolades.
- They need us to do what we hadn’t done enough of until now.
- They need us to enter the spaces they cannot and to be as passionate and persistent and courageous as they have been.
- They need us to show up and cast votes on behalf of them.
Adults in America, we cannot let these students or the tens of millions children they represent down by letting this moment remain simply a moment.
We of every color and religious tradition, every political affiliation and gender identity, every nation of origin and sexual orientation—we need to march now and we need to not stop.
For these young people who are leading us now, and for those who will come after them; those committed to changing the world—we need to do our part.
We need to march all the way to November, all the way to the polls—and for all our lives.
Then, we’ll look back on this day not as merely a day of defiance and celebration, but as the beginning of a revolution.
Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.