Pierre joins demonstrators in the March For Science

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.” — Edward R. Murrow

Last Saturday was chilly with a cold, misty rain falling off and on.

Nevertheless, Pierre and several other dogs walked, jumped and strolled down High Street with their owners in a March for Science. Naturally, Pierre was jubilant to find himself among other dogs, a crowd of people and, best of all, children quite willing, even anxious, to pet him.

This special gathering was directed, not only at climate change, but all aspects of the progress of science. The marches were sparked, worldwide, by the Trump administration’s decisions that threaten the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Health.

Some marchers carried interesting signs like, “Science Saves Lives” and “Except For Science I Would Not Be Here.” One of the most creative signs appeared at the Washington, D.C., March for Science: “No Science, No Beer.” A true statement. In fact, if we think about it, there is not a single aspect of our lives that does not owe a tremendous debt to science.

Our Morgantown march started at WVU’s Woodburn Circle. The participants kept to the sidewalks, marching down High Street. Estimates indicated as many as 500 people marching in Morgantown.

There was a continuous line of participants walking four-abreast from the top of High Street, close to Panera Bread, all the way to Pleasant Street.

The were reportedly 600 Marches for Science worldwide, about 100 of those in the United States. What is it that brings people out in the rain, the snow and blasting summer heat to participate in such marches?

Years ago Rob and I drove to Washington, D.C., the Saturday after our country’s entrance into the Iraq war to join the anti-war protest. Yes, we carried homemade signs and joined the other marchers in protest of a war we believed was unnecessary, a war entered into for all the wrong reasons. Sometime later, when President George Bush came to Morgantown, Rob and I, along with our adult children and children-in-law, joined a demonstration on University Avenue protesting the Iraq war. Both of these demonstrations were peaceful. Why did we do this? What’s the endgame here?

The answer is not a simple one. As far back as the 1700s Americans have gathered together to protest something they believed to be wrong. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights ensures us freedom of speech and “the right to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Long ago Edward R. Murrow warned us not to confuse dissent with disloyalty. There is nothing disloyal or un-American about protesting a wrong or an injustice. Indeed, the very opposite is true.

There’s another reason people join marches. Doing so allows us to feel a little less vulnerable, more like citizens who have a voice and a choice. It makes us feel less alone in our convictions. Sometimes the facts, both real and “alternative,” can make one feel like a lone reed blowing in a hostile wind. When hundreds of like-minded reeds face that wind together, the results can be a choreographed dance of communication and change.

For our sweet Pierre this march was an afternoon of fun, of greeting people and trying to play with other dogs.

For us and for the other marchers it was much more. It was a way of saying to our lawmakers, judges and the voters, “We care, and so should you.”

Irene Marinelli writes a weekly column for The Dominion Post. Write her at columns@dominionpost.com.

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