To Do: Make a Differance

by Ian Kennedy

In which I fail to make it to Washington DC and still have a great time.

I spent most of the day on my feet, standing and marching with my mother. We got home, looked at these pictures and cried together.

I’m sure that part of it had to do with the fact that we’d been up since 4am, waited 3 hours for a bus to DC which stood us up, slid into bed for two more hours, and then rode the good-old reliable subway to the NYC Women’s March. There were tons of people there.

New Yorkers' reaction
From the New York Times

It certainly felt good to be with hundreds of thousands of other people affirming the rights of women, migrants, black and brown folks, trans people, muslims, and many other groups threatened by the language of DJT. All of us were out there because we believed that this country could be about love, could reject hate, could function in and with kindness. When I saw people around the world supporting the continuation of a kind and accepting American Experiment, I cried because of how grateful I was not to be alone. If you were there in person or in spirit, thank you.

Marching on 5th Avenue, taken by my mom

I also cried, though, because I feel it when critics ask: what will we do tomorrow? How can we rise up? How can we turn this moment into the movement?

The truth is that US America turned out as much oppression on January 21, 2017 as it did a year earlier and will on the 21st. Me getting up and standing in the (not that) cold morning dark/holding a sign/occasionally yelling doesn’t make anybody freer. If it made me feel better about Trump it also risks making me feel complacent, which could be harmful in the long term. So, I have to keep this in my sights: How to make a Differance?

Did you notice the typo, the ‘A’ in the wrong place? I’m turning back towards Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida, our January Text, for inspiration.

One of Derrida’s key insights is that meaning isn’t something that is fixed over time. He builds on Saussure’s notion that meaning is held in the difference between words: I know a dog because it is not a cat, not a puppy, not a child, not a wolf. Derrida adds that the meaning of the words also depends on time: in the phrase “my dog” neither word gains its full meaning alone. Before you hear/read ‘dog’, my is an empty pointer, and it is only if you heard/read ‘my’ that you know which dog I mean.

Derrida famously marks this temporal aspect as one where the meaning of a word is deferred to the future, and marks these two senses of being different and deferred by writing the french word “différence” with an ‘a’ as “différance.”

In the case of our March, that means, partially, that we won’t know the impact of the Women’s March until later, until there are some impacts which we can trace back to today. Whether we’ll be able to do that or not, though, isn’t random: it’s up for grabs. If liberals and progressives, and left wingers, and anarchy-socialists, and militant anti-facists can come together (or work in parallel) to defend the rights Trump threatens, the march will have been worth it.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sue Ann Molinell says:

    Thanks, Ian – that was beautiful & as I said in my many posts (couldn’t help myself – I was so thrilled w/the march) I am sure that this may be our first ACTION as an Eco Sangha – but am hoping it will lead to Many more & different kinds of effective changes! It was even more wonderful when I finally got home & saw that the WHOLE WORLD was marching in support of us(US)!!! A GREAT experience – and grateful to have shared it with each & every one of you.
    With Metta
    Sue Ann Molinell

    Liked by 1 person

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