Saturday, November 12, 2016

Art of Protest

So-called protests have become very popular this week. Regardless of the candidate or winner, folks aren't happy. Now the ones who didn't win are protesting. And the ones who won are demonstrating what they perceive as new power to do as they please. None of them are right. And none of them are really accomplishing anything effective...except pissing off their fellow citizens. Yeah, they're certainly angering the rest of the populace.

There's an art to an effective protest. And rules. Once you break the rules, you've lost all chance at getting your message out. If you want to see really effective protests, check out some of the marches led by Martin Luther King. THEY were effective. No one is gonna hear your "I have a Dream" speech if they perceive you as rioters and rabble-rousers.

1. Know what you're protesting. I would venture 80% of the protesters this week are just folks who want to let someone know they're unhappy. So what? A good percentage of the people in this country--or for that matter, the world--are unhappy. You have to narrow it down to the sharpest possible goal. Just marching around, yelling about the election outcome is not effective.

2. Control your actions. There is a vast gulf between peaceful dissent and rioting with vandalism. Often, silent, peaceful dissent speaks so much louder than rioting. I remember a vivid image from the sixties/seventies when people were protesting the Vietnam War. The Nation Guard was called out and there they stood lined up with their weapons drawn on their own people. One young male protester walked down the line inserting carnations in every single rifle barrel. It was a sharp contrast war vs. peace. And totally non-violent.

3. Make sure your protest doesn't harm the innocent. A woman died this week because protesters blocked ambulance access to the hospital. In what world is that ever okay? Ever? Another family was prevented from reaching their loved one before she died because protesters wouldn't let them through. Again, this is never all right. Never.

4. Consider the effectiveness of a protest vs. some other action. This week was a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of voters. I will not debate here the extra side issues such as popular vote, electoral college, or the third party vote. I WILL say the vote demonstrated just how unhappy a large part of the population was. There is nothing more terrifying to the members of congress than an angry populace willing to get out to the polls.

5. Much of congress has been hanging out in Washington, D.C. for most of our lifetimes. Think about that. We can swap out Presidents every four years until we die. But if we never vote out our congressional delegates, nothing will change. Do you want to know who's really running our government? Look at the Congress. And think about this...if you never write or call your congressman or congresswoman to express your displeasure with the way they're doing their job, then you don't have the right to bellyache about it.

6. Elections do not magically happen. They require people. Polling places require workers. When was the last time you did your civic duty by participating in the election process? When was the last time you offered a ride to an elderly voter? Or babysat so a young mother could go vote? If you're not participating, then you have no right to be unhappy about the outcome.

If you want to protest, do so. It's still your right. But ask yourself if this protest is the most effective use of your time, efforts, and voice.