I awoke on Sunday, Jan. 22 to find my Facebook feed full of what stands as political debate in 2017.
Mostly, it consisted of one of two kinds of posts. Post Type A were from friends—most under 40—participating or encouraging those who participated in various Women’s March events around the country. Post Type B were from friends—most older than 40, nearly all men—telling the sign-toting youngsters, in so many words, to move on, to “get over it.”
The purpose of the Women’s March was to raise awareness for women’s and civil rights causes, but the events certainly had a tone fueled by opposition to President Donald Trump. I’ll choose to believe most of the “Get Over It” folks took exception to the continuing angst surrounding Trump, not the concept of civil rights.
Now, let’s for a second ignore that the “Get Over It” people are complaining about people complaining, which is even more useless and unproductive than complaining about a social or political issue. Instead, let’s assume they are trying to impart wisdom on the younger generation, an “it will all be fine” uttered in the manner of a gruff grandfather.
Let’s say that when they call protesters “crybabies” or tell them to put down their signs and get a job, what they are really saying is that simply marching will achieve nothing, and anyone who feels strongly about a cause should get involved, organize, run for office or lobby their elected officials. And they’d be right.
But, if we were to say all that, then we’d also have to say that there is a fine history of “Get over it” in the United States. And we’d have to say that history has time and time again proven those folks wrong. Our country always has derived strength and spirit from the American people not merely “getting over it.”
Good leaders recognize that citizens exercising their rights is not a personal affront.
This country was founded by people who did not get over it, men who baked into the founding documents the very right for people to assemble, to speak their minds, to petition their government. And good, honest leaders (and their supporters) should recognize Americans have those rights, and exercising them is not a personal affront but a challenge to do better and think beyond the seven inches that lie between their ears.
For some, it’s a hard ask, and this kind of response to resistance is not new. The “Get Over Its” have existed as long as this country has, as long as groups of people have fought to advance rights and challenge the infringement of those rights.
The causes have changed as our country grows and progresses, but it is shocking how little the “Get Over Its” have. The very insults used to discredit the people marching for equal rights, environmental causes and government transparency since Trump’s win in November were used in the early 20th century to disparage those fighting for women’s right to vote.
Women suffragists were depicted as ugly or unfeminine, violent criminals and crying babies who couldn’t handle even simple responsibilities like putting on a pair of pants. There were a whole series of cartoons that criticized women for not focusing their energy on their jobs—in this era, childrearing, cooking and cleaning. There were several images showing cats dressed up as women, proving that the art and language of the political meme isn’t all that new or original.
There is an expansion of the “Get Over It” logic that suggests opposition to the new president is the result of soft parenting and a coddled generation not equipped for failure. This is misguided. It is, instead, a signal that young Americans have faith in our system, and understand the importance of fortitude and defending what they believe is right.
An extension of this is, of course, a person’s right to disagree with the disagreement. That is not only fair; it is essential to fully informed public discourse.
But, if I may, I do have advice for those who find themselves tempted only to yell “Get over it” at each sign-wielding Millennial they see: Don’t. The people you’re trying to silence are merely ensuring an American tradition lives on for the next time you may need it.
And if that bothers you, well, maybe think about who the real crybaby is.