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Standing and Fighting Together

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Amber Helsel

I was watching Jim Gaffigan's new stand-up comedy special, "Cinco," on Netflix the other night and realized something: You know we live in a weird world when even he is getting political. Gaffigan's comedy bread-and-butter is food (which is part of why he's one of my favorites), but he talks a little bit of politics in the special, which he rarely does.

These days, everyone is speaking out, and as Donald Trump's tweets and speeches become more and more erratic, and his politics become even more insane and exclusionary, it's necessary.

Even I'm trying to make an effort to speak out more than normal, though I still try not to cloud my social-media feeds with all politics. The people need my humor and endless stream of consciousness.

For the first time, I even attended a rally, not as a journalist covering it, but as a concerned citizen who wanted to stand against all the injustice.

In general, I'm not a morning person, and on the weekends, my habit of sleeping through all my alarms is so much worse than it is during the week, so that means that I was late to the Women's March on Jackson. I parked my car on Congress Street and then ran down to the Capitol, where I realized that the march had started, and the group was already on the other side of the Governor's Mansion. I ran there, feeling slightly upset that I had missed the first part, but altogether, I was glad that I had managed to make it.

I joined the march just as the group stopped in front of the Governor's Mansion. People chanted, cried out against Trump and for justice, and then we kept going. And most of us stayed for the entire three-hour-long event. We listened to speakers such as reproductive- and disability-rights advocate Laurie Bertram Roberts and Hattiesburg pastor Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, and music from artists such as Nellie Mack and Lydia Bain.

What made me happiest during the march was watching two little girls, probably around 4 or 5 years old, who sat on the shoulders of their mom and aunt, joining some of the chants. As I watched them, I smiled and thought back to all that had happened over the last few months, and what had happened in my own life over the last couple of years, from beginning to stand on my own two feet to finding my voice among the crowd and the courage to speak out.

We live in a difficult time for women, children, people of color, immigrants, LGBT people, you name it. In the first couple of weeks of his presidency, Donald Trump has already made it more difficult for women to get abortions, for immigrants to get into the country, for scientists to work toward advancements, etc.

It's easy to get sucked into the madness and let the negativity and anxiety take over. And in the chaos of a post-Donald-Trump's-election world, it's probably easy to feel alone, whether you just feel singled out because you believe a little differently than family and friends, or because the president and the people he surrounds himself with don't believe that you're a person who deserves equal rights.

It's also really easy to believe that you'll never make a difference. But as Women's Marches around the country and even around the world showed, none of us is alone, and we can make a difference. I mean, Donald Trump is still president, but much of the world is in agreement that he's terrible. So none of us are alone in that, and at the very least, the beautiful people on Twitter are succeeding in annoying the hell out of him, which is, in a way, some form of change.

The Women's March organization has kept going as well, and more marches and rallies covering different issues have popped up across the country. The people are mad, and chances are, we'll probably get even angrier in the coming years.

But it's important to not let that anger take over. I've seen people talking about needing to strike a balance between staying informed and aware, and practicing self-care, but they also talk about how hard that can be, and they're not lying. I try to strike that balance, though if I'm not careful, I end up becoming too blinded by my own world.

As human beings, we are naturally selfish creatures, and over the last couple of years, I've become exponentially aware of my own tendency to get sucked into my life and forget everything happening to other people around me.

But I'm trying to fix that. I've realized that even if I have things happening in my own life that are crying out for my attention (like the whole insanity of trying to find and eventually buy a house), I've also got to think of others, especially in a time like this.

Like me, some of you may not exactly know where you fit in all of this. But even if you don't know where to start, it's important to keep standing and fighting for equal rights for all. Because that's what this country is about, right? Or at least, that's what it should be about.

We've ignored many of these issues for a long time, and some may believe that we live in a post-racial society. But we don't. There's still injustice. There's still inequity. There's still reason to fight, and there's still reason to change and to challenge the status quo, and all the things we've ignored are beginning to surface.

We have to face our demons head on, and we have to do it together. We're definitely not alone in that.

Valentine's Day is next week. Even if you can't see a reason to celebrate, why not try and do some good in the world on that day? Maybe start there and continue for the next four years, and for the rest of your life.

Managing Editor Amber Helsel is a demolitions expert and the Demon Lady of Food. She's also a Gemini who likes adventures, art, food, music, cats and anime. Email story ideas to amber@jacksonfreepress.com.


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