The Best Sign to Carry at Any March

February 7, 2017 by

Last November, I was rushing through the Union Square subway station when I came across a wall of post-its, each with a message responding to the election results. Started by “Subway Therapy,” and then taking on a life of its own, the Union Square post-it wall took up a fifty-foot or more stretch, and both sides of two entrances.

The messages were all over the place, from “Love Trumps Hate” and “#NotMyPresident” to “Hope & Peace.” And, nestled not altogether incongruously between “Choose Love” and “@Nero,” was “Eat Hemp.”

the wall of post-its

The post-its certainly gathered people, who paused in their subway rush to read the messages and add one of their own. They seemed to illustrate a new solidarity, giving people a chance to pause in their rush to join something greater than themselves and hold common cause with others.

But it will take something stronger than the weak adhesive on the back of post-it notes to patch up this torn and divided nation.

Reminders of these divisions are everywhere, in the news, coming between friends, dividing families. They are hard to avoid here in New York City, where protests pop up suddenly, and knots of police gather in anticipation, a city where housing projects and old ethnic neighborhoods contrast to Wall Street and Trump Tower. (I’m no fan of the Trumpian aesthetic, and think that his towers should be protested against simply on the grounds of their being architectural abominations, but that’s another story.)

The divide has also cut right down the middle of American Christianity. (I guess the divisions were there all along, but have now been thrown into sharp relief.) After the election, the New York Times published a video showing the responses of various pastors. The responses they featured all seemed to fall into either of two opposing camps, either “God has answered our prayers,” or “We are doomed.” It was sobering to see. But later that week, I experienced a very different sermon, based on Luke 18:9–14, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. It hardly needed explanation; the message was all too clear to me.

It’s been too easy to be the Pharisee, take high moral ground, and to rail against the wrong in the world and the individuals around me. Especially in a time of crisis, it’s easy to ignore my own sin, and forget my own culpability, my own guilt before God. As Hubert Butler wrote: “Even the churches are drifting slothfully toward a crude Manichaeism of Darkness and Light, and away from Christ, who said so inscrutably that we should love our enemies.”

Even if what we protest is unjust, we are wrong if we imagine ourselves to be righteous before God. I cannot love my political or ideological adversaries if I think of them as the children of darkness. The answer is not to give up, or to let injustice flourish; the answer lies hidden in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and, a few weeks later, I saw its summation written out clearly on a young woman’s sign.

While the women’s march in Washington, D.C., drew celebrities and a crowd of half a million, “sister marches” took place in cities around the nation, and New York was no exception. I had avoided the event because, although I am sympathetic to many of its causes, I was uncomfortable with the official exclusion of pro-life marchers, and with the messages from the stage, as speakers fantasized about blowing up the White House one moment and urged the marchers to “choose love” the next. But I still encountered several groups of women, wearing pink hats and carrying signs, on their way to the NYC women’s march.

Many of their signs reminded me of the post-its and their mostly vapid messages, but I saw one whose message, despite being written in the march’s signature pink, stood out starkly from the rest. It is the only message that can unite our country. No one, from elected official to outraged activist, can dodge its message. It simply said: “Repent.”


Veery Huleatt is a member of the Bruderhof currently working as a junior fellow at First Things magazine in New York City.

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  • Dear Veery; You are very lucky that you live in a democratic country and can say whatever you think and march on the street. But in our country, you need to get permission first and normaly you dont get permission for marching and saying what you think. There are a group of mothers ; mothers whose children disappeared under the investigation. They want to scream to the people for their children but they are not allowed even to scream for their children. The mothers of the saturday meet every saturday at the center of the city. It is now over 600 week since they begun to meet first. We also sometimes to support them but the police is not nice to them. I hope our country will also be a democratic and free country someday . This is what we pray God for.

    metin erdem