On protesting

I get why people have been out in the streets these last few days.  They’re angry and upset. They want to express that more publicly.  They want to feel some solidarity with people.  I understand that.  But I don’t think it’s the right approach.  There’s nothing to protest right now.  There was a legal election. Someone won and someone lost.  Over half the country doesn’t like the person who won.  That would have been true had the other person won.  And maybe the other side would be protesting right now. Who knows.

Protest works when there’s something to protest, when there’s an outcome you’re looking for.  Protest can also raise awareness about something that’s happening that you think isn’t right and that there are steps to be taken once people are aware of the issue.  The Black Lives Matter protests were protesting the inordinate amount of police shootings of unarmed black people.  They asked for investigations, for changes to how police work in black communities, and in a handful of specific incidents, they got some of that.  The Justice Department investigated Ferguson and got some new structures in place so that that police department could move forward.

Trump is not in office yet.  We’re hearing rumors of cabinet picks, of policy plans he has.  But we have nothing to protest yet.  Here’s how you really protest.  Get out in the street before something goes through, so that people not paying attention will.  Pick up the phone and call your legislators.  Don’t write, don’t email, don’t sign an online petition, call.  They can easily ignore written communication.  If you’re on the phone, they have to respond.  Work at the state and local level.  While our weird republican system can be frustrating, you use it against some things.  There’s a lot that happens at the state level that the federal government can’t intervene in.  Look at California.  Look at all the states legalizing marijuana.  Pro choice? Figure out what your state laws are and work on those as a way to shield against coming court decisions or federal laws.  Climate change? Ditto.  California has stricter laws on emissions and water usage.  You can do the same in your state.  And call those people too.

When elections come around at the local and state level, vote in them, campaign for people who share your views on the things you care about (and for the record, no one is going to be with you 100%).  Talk to your neighbors about the candidates you support, meet them on the things you all care about–a safe place for our children, support for those who need help, having a planet to live on.   Work on people who disagree with you in compassionate ways.

I hope all those people in the streets voted, because if they didn’t, then the protests are really a waste.  Because they could have done something proactive and they.  I’m going to assume they did.  Otherwise, it makes me depressed.

2 Replies to “On protesting”

  1. I think the protests serve a couple functions – first, they are a tangible reminder to the marginalized people whi may become further discriminated against in a Trump presidency that there are a lot of people who support them and will stand up for them, even as hate crimes rise. Of course, we need to stand up and defend these people on a personal level in our daily lives as well, but there is value in the broad message. Second, the protests can serve as a reminder – to Trump, the GOP, to Democratic politicians – that while Trump won and the headlines trumpet his shocking victory, it was not with a majority or even a plurality, and that should matter in how he governs. I wholly agree with all your suggestions as well, of course.

  2. Preston, I agree, and I support those that are out there. I’m just going to reserve my energy for when I might really need it. I have my senators and congressperson on speed-dial though. 🙂

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