I believe in protests.
This doesn’t mean I believe in rioting. Causing damage is not the same thing as making your opinion heard and your voice count.
But I do believe, especially in times like these, in standing up, walking down a street with a sign or a loud voice, and saying exactly what you feel – especially when it comes to human rights issues.
I also believe in the power of small groups of people. Call me naïve, but it comes from my own experience – small, dedicated, every day people carry as much strength behind them as a massive corporate entity when they use the right tools. It’s this last bit that often catches people off guard, though, rendering many protests and gatherings ineffective or even ending them before they can begin.
Attached to this post is a favorite article of mine by Johann Hari, a journalist known for having strong opinions related to human rights issues. Last year he published this article talking about how protests and activism can work successfully. I enjoyed reading this article because he uses real examples to prove his points, and thus gave me validation in feeling the way I feel about protests and other similar things.
I feel it’s important to note – in his examples, people always get together. PHYSICALLY meet up, and march, and interact with others. They don’t use computers. They don’t hide behind a screen. They go out and make their voices heard, despite facing possible arrest and other dangers.
It begs the question – how willing are you to fight for your own rights? (Of course, if you have to fight for them, are they truly ‘rights,’ or privileges? But that’s another issue.)
My favorite part about Hari’s article is a story that moves me and proves to me that every action you take affects someone else – in ways you may never know about.
“And protest can have an invisible ripple effect that lasts for generations. A small group of women from Iowa lost their sons early in the Vietnam war, and they decided to set up an organization of mothers opposing the assault on the country. They called a protest of all mothers of serving soldiers outside the White House - and six turned up in the snow. Even though later in the war they became nationally important voices, they always remembered that protest as an embarrassment and a humiliation.
Until, that is, one day in the 1990s, one of them read the autobiography of Benjamin Spock, the much-loved and trusted celebrity doctor, who was the Oprah of his day. When he came out against the war in 1968, it was a major turning point in American public opinion. And he explained why he did it. One day, he had been called to a meeting at the White House to be told how well the war in Vietnam was going, and he saw six women standing in the snow with placards, alone, chanting. It troubled his conscience and his dreams for years. If these women were brave enough to protest, he asked himself, why aren't I? It was because of them that he could eventually find the courage to take his stand - and that in turn changed the minds of millions, and ended the war sooner. An event that they thought was a humiliation actually turned the course of history.”
I ask you now – do YOU believe in protests?