The cheer, "This is what democracy looks like!" was still ringing in my ears as I waited for my plane to arrive from Iceland. My legs were tired from standing and walking for hours the day before, and I was not looking forward to the hours of sitting still ahead of me.
"Where are you headed?" asked the young woman sitting next to me.
"Back to my family in Sweden. We are Americans living abroad," I explained.
"Wow! Did you come all the way to DC for the Women's March?"
"Oh my gosh, that is incredible! Thank you! Thank you so much!" she extended out her arms for an embrace, and I stood and gave her a strong hug.
This type of warm interaction was similar to what I had experienced all weekend. Strangers looking out for one another, random warm hugs, and smiles on the plane as we recognized each other as fellow Marchers.
Neither here nor there
The rhetoric that won the election was not reflective of the America that I left five years ago.
Many times, I have been told that as an American living abroad, I have no right to an opinion about what happens in the US. As a foreigner living in Sweden, I have heard that I shouldn't have an opinion about local Swedish politics. I’m left in a no man's land of sorts. No matter which way I turn, I am shushed.
We moved to Sweden five years ago for a career, not for political reasons and over the years, we feel neither Swedish nor 100% American as our cultures blend.
But, there is always a chance that we will return to the US and I think of our children’s futures if we decide to repatriate. I want them to have options for affordable and accessible health care, schooling, and retirement no matter where we live. That means that I care a great deal about what happens in the US.
"Don't like it? Good. Don't come back."
I've heard it all before. I care because I have experienced the amazing benefits of paid parental leave, universal healthcare, and tax-subsidized daycare and I don't think it is an unrealistic goal for the US to achieve pieces of the same.
When the Women's March on Washington became an official event, I knew that I had to go. This was mandatory. I wanted to be a part of history, renew my patriotism in a way that is impossible to do overseas, and be among like-minded people.
I needed to remind myself that there were others who saw what was happening and thought it was unacceptable. That my viewpoint wasn't so foreign. That other fellow Americans felt the same way that I did. The rhetoric that won the election was not reflective of the America that I left five years ago.
The US is a thought leader
Other countries look to the US as a thought leader and the election of President Trump, who ran a campaign on anti-immigration, hate, misogyny, Islamophobia, and nationalism, was seen as a huge victory for nationalist parties worldwide.
Europe is seeing a lurch to the right as England prepares for Brexit, a populist is dominating the polls as The Netherlands prepares for an election in March, and anti-immigration, anti-Europe leaders are making gains in Italy. More people who think like Trump are taking leadership positions.
And Sweden is trending in that direction as well.
The nationalist party, the Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna), are rising in popularity and currently hold 14.9% of seats in the Swedish Parliament. Trump's win justified their beliefs.
Since a country as diverse as the US endorses their ideologies then surely, they must be right. The effects from President Trump's election has a direct influence on the politics that impact my family living in Sweden.
Women stood up and will not be dismissed
On Saturday, January 21, 2017, women around the world stood up together and dug their feet in the ground to say, "No."
No. We will not tolerate ideologies that strip minorities, refugees, and immigrants of their rights.
No. We will not tolerate policies that reduce women's access to healthcare, birth control, and preventive services.
No. We will not stand by and watch our countries build walls separating our nations from one another.
No. We will not force our Muslim brothers and sisters to register because people are afraid of terrorism.
No. We will not deny climate change and scientific facts.
No. We are not okay with any of this.
No. We will not be quiet any longer.
Of the thousands of signs, I saw during the March on DC there was one that stuck with me. It said, "Be soft, kind, and loving, but take no shit."
All of my life, I have been quiet trying not to anger my conservative family members. Go along to get along. I have focused on avoiding confrontation and keeping the peace.
But they have interpreted my silence for weakness and the world was shocked when the power and strength of women became apparent on January 21.
We will not be silent anymore.
It is hard not to find your voice after shouting at the top of your lungs for hours.
I will continue to take action. I will continue to use my words, creativity, and positivity to make a difference. I will be kind, soft, and loving but I will take no shit.
And I’m not the only one.
The ground shook the day women stood up.
Lisa Ferland is exercising her rights as a US citizen to express her opinions and to be the change she wants to see in the world. She is the contributing writer, editor, and publisher of the Knocked Up Abroad series about multicultural approaches to pregnancy, birth, and parenting worldwide.