So it’s finally here: the tweeting president. I was going to start calling him Tweety, but that is disrespectful to a beloved cartoon character, and could be confusing since the president is cartoon-like caricature. Besides there are a lot of good nicknames out there, my current favorites being Cheeto Satan and Dumpster Fire. Going into Friday, I was feeling quite overwhelmed. On the one hand there are a ton of things that Cheeto, the Dementors, and Congress haven’t done yet, but may very well do that scare the junk food out of me. On the other hand, there are a lot of scary things that Cheeto and the Dementors are doing right now. It’s confusing to say the least, to figure out if you need to participate, fight back, or jump off a bridge and take as many “alt-humans” as possible with you. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of fact-checking to be done, and now, thanks to Cheeto’s minion, Kelly Conway, there are “alternative facts” to keep track of. I’ve never been a spreadsheet kind of person, but clearly I’m going to have to learn. In the meantime, I’ve been relying more on friends to help talk it through and determine what to do.
But a funny thing happened on the way to solidarity. I found myself having more debates and disagreements with my previously like-minded friends. It was disorienting until Mike pointed out that it may just be an indication of how bad this is. This was not just your usual loss to the Republican party. Our world has been turned upside down, and we were all grieving in our own, sometimes very different, ways. I know that I’ve struggled to admit that my Democratic party has lost its way, and I can no longer take refuge in checking off that liberal box anymore.
I have to interject here and shout out to my dad, a left-of-Communism humanist. He’s been criticizing the Democratic party for a long time about losing sight of its mission to protect disenfranchised people. It was a hard message for me to listen to, since we were making such great progress for LGBTQIA folks, had gained health care for so many more people, and, well, Obama and Michelle were just so wicked cool. But the jig is up (do people even say that anymore?) and, Pops, you were right. So keep writing letters and posting on Facebook. Many of us have finally caught up with you and are doing the same.
So yes, it’s scary and overwhelming, and Friday depressed the hell out of me, but I decided to untwist my panties about the implosion of the Dems and my friends’ conflicting reactions, and my alter-ego Blanche had a couple of whiskey shots and a ciggie. I gathered with friends and we moved on to…
You all have seen the numbers of people who gathered across the world, nevermind in any particular American city. Here is the sea of Bostonians I was hanging out with on the Boston Commons and some iconic Boston buildings in the distance.
I was lifted up and grateful. Even better for me was the Boston flavor of the event. Like in many cities, the turnout was greater than the organizers expected. Marching involved squeezing all 175,000 + of us out of the Common through gates that probably haven’t changed much in size since the Colonial times and on to streets designed in the 1700s. This was taking some time. But we’re Bostonians, and we’re nothing if not people who are respectful of personal space in public areas. At one point a speaker came on to thank us for our patience and then encouraged us to talk to the people next to us. I laughed at that, because only in Boston would you need to tell people that. The thought hadn’t occurred to me at all. Nor had it to most people. But once we were reminded that we weren’t complete strangers, we started briefly chatting up a few neighbors.
The other fun part was the Boston nerd factor. I love the Boston science nerd thing, but the fact that we are actually having to march to protect science is kind of fucked up. Just sayin’. Go get your Galileo on! Anyway, this was one of my favorite signs, and I confess I only understood it because I work at a hospital that does a lot of research.
What I’ve learned at my job is that statistical significance matters in science. You and I may think that a world without cheese, chocolate, or wine would make it a significantly less pleasant place, and we would be right. But unless the data supports that view, the lack of pleasantness is not statistically significant. Luckily for us we don’t have to worry about it either way. I will cut the person that tries to away my cheese, chocolate, or wine. But it does matter when you’re trying , say, to decide if that new medicine is going to help a lot of people or just a few or no one. Part of the way researchers figure out the difference between what works and how well is using a statistics tool, “p”, and it’s value, hence the p < 0.001 in the sign. It’s significant.
So that’s a long explanation for one sign, but trust me, a fair number of people understood that thing. Even better was the video my friend sent me of people chanting, “Let’s go science (clap, clap, clapclapclap). Let’s go science…” On the one hand, Bostonians are the people who have a statue dedicated to ether, so no big surprise. On the other hand, WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR SCIENCE NOW. WTF? I’m OK, now. Really.
The important thing is that we were all together–women and men who care about science, health care, jobs, fundamental rights for all humans, in all their glorious magnificence and messiness. So Saturday was a pretty awesome day. Let’s keep our panties untwisted and go make some significant changes.