It was a half-hearted RSVP, but I vowed to try and make it. As a member of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party Voter group, I received an invite to a voter registration rally only blocks from my apartment in West Philadelphia for the following day. I am a mother of a three month-old, and work from home. Planning anything in advance is wishful thinking. But I managed to get some work done in the morning, the baby was not fussing, and the walk to the high school where the event was held was short, considering the overwhelming heat. So I dressed the baby in her First Woman President t-shirt in solidarity with the future Madame President, and headed to the event.
This was not as easy as it sounds.
Three weeks ago, the Democratic National Convention happened five miles from my home, and I was terrified to go anywhere near downtown. I asked that my husband text me when he arrived at work and left work every day during the convention. The reason for my overwhelming anxiety was the fear of violence. My job requires a constant involvement on social media with current political events, and I felt assaulted with the daily accounts of violence, shootings, hate speech and political turmoil. It remains unclear whether the summer of 2016 will be remembered historically as a particularly violent summer, or if this is the new norm. Perhaps my anxiety was rooted in being a new mother, with an overwhelming reaction to fear harm and want to protect my family. Whatever the root cause of my fears, it landed right at the heart of the DNC, and I stayed clear.
The rally for Hillary Clinton required an RSVP by Democratic voters, which allayed a small amount of my fears, by possibly a fraction. But my desire to be present with Hillary, to be in a room of her supporters and to witness her historic campaign motivated me. I was relieved when I saw families with children, fathers with strollers, mothers with elementary school kids. And police.
To be viscerally involved with a large political movement is a powerful experience. I support Hillary wholeheartedly as a feminist, an American, and as someone who advocates for equal and progressive legislation for women and families. My support of Hillary Clinton is steadfast regardless of her opponent. I believe in her promises for our country, and hope that a Senate in the grips of bipartisan lockdown will actually get behind her, unlike they did for President Obama. This was the point of her rally. Our country needs voters to show up at the polls not only to elect her president, but to gain control of the Senate. I applauded and cheered wildly.
But the true measure of consequence in her speech was how she addressed violence. The issue that has paralyzed me in fear of being in public with my newborn at times, the issue that almost kept me from the rally that day, was the issue she addressed directly. “That doesn’t mean I want to abolish the 2nd Amendment. That doesn’t mean I want to round up people’s guns. What that means is I want to stop you from being shot by somebody who shouldn’t have a gun,” she said. “We need comprehensive background checks. … We need to pass a law finally to say that people on the terrorist watch list can’t buy guns.”
Go ahead and abolish the Second Amendment, I say. This country needs a new slew of amendments anyway (most importantly the ERA). Let’s rewrite an amendment for those who insist on owning guns that reflects the nature of gun culture today, not a potential militia wielding muskets. With Pennsylvania’s gun laws’ lack of a stance on open-carry, the de-facto position legally allows for open carry rights on handguns in the state. This terrifies me, especially when in a crowd of Hillary supporters with my infant.
But we go on with our lives, despite the fear. Packed in a crowd of people eager to get an autograph or selfie with Clinton, I unbuckled my daughter from her stroller and held her up to stretch. Arguably adorable, and wearing a First Woman President t-shirt, she quickly garnered attention. Soon we were allowed to pass through the crowd of supporters by security personnel, and to my shock I was quickly face-to-face with the future president. Bewildered, and incapable of articulation, I thrust my daughter into her hands while babbling “…What an honor…You’re my hero…” Clinton asked my daughter’s age, held her for a few beats to pose for photos, then handed her back to me. Security guided me out away from the crowd. The photos of my daughter with Hillary Clinton are immediate treasures to my family and friends. To have the briefest of moments with the first woman presidential candidate is deeply fulfilling. And it almost didn’t happen, because of fear. Which is exactly why we need to take on the trenchant gun lobby for good.