This past week was one of protests and demonstrations. My first thought on protests is a selfish one: is it going to impact what I want to do? If not, sure, go ahead and knock yourself out. If yes, then I rather you didn’t.
Personally, while I support the right of people to protest, I think they are not all that effective and offer as many pitfalls as benefits. Actually, more pitfalls than benefits.
Before protesters start throwing Molotov cocktails in my direction, hear me out . . .
. . . and understand that these are my own opinions, misguided as they may be. I have a right to them just as you, the reader, have the right to think me an idiot.
So, here are the benefits I see:
- People see the protest on TV or the Internet and you get some screen time.
- You raise awareness about whatever you are protesting.
- It makes you feel like you done something; you feel like a warrior.
- You meet people who think like you and they will validate and reinforce your views.
Those are the benefits I can think of . . . and I had to push the meaning of benefit to add those in there.
Before I go on, let me repeat; these are my thoughts on the matter and I do not claim to hold The Truth of Things.
So, let me take each one of those in turn.
Screen time — it sounds nice, don’t it? National exposure, politicians knowing you are serious enough to get your ass out from in front of your TV, and the chance to introduce people to views they might not have considered.
Here is my cynical assessment: people watching a protest will fall into one of three categories; people who already know about the views you hold and agree with you, people who already know about the views you hold and don’t agree with you, and people who could care less either way.
Let’s face it; we live in a plugged-in society. We get news through phones and tablets and computers that have a nearly constant presence in front of our face. People who care already know the arguments for at least one position on any given subject. If they don’t know the counterarguments it’s not because they haven’t been exposed to them; it’s because they don’t even want to consider them or they do not care.
Is it possible you are raising awareness? Yes, I suppose so, but see my previous paragraph. Your protest is not going to swing a large number of new people to your way of thinking.
But, damn, it sure feels good to yell out stuff and wave signs in the air, don’t it? And, holy crap on a cracker! You can’t spit without hitting someone who thinks like you. Your views surely must have the blessing of the universe itself! I mean, look at all them people around you with clever signs and yelling stuff that sounds a lot like what you are yelling.
I bet I could make a killing selling extra arms so that people could pat themselves on the back and still hold up signs.
OK, I sound a tad derisive and perhaps come across as
a bit of an asshole. Well, I can’t help who I am. I tend to be frank about my opinions, even though that’s not my name.
Let’s again be clear . . . I’m expressing why I see no point to large public protests. Others are welcome to their opinion on the matter and I am perfectly willing to be schooled on the reasons why protests in the current times are a fine and necessary thing. Heck, that’s what the comments are for, right below this post.
But, let me present the rest of my arguments before you rip me a new one.
There are two major and a few minor reasons why I’m skeptical of the exposure angle. One, you are not really in control of the message. Do you know what headlines are the first that I see? Violence, clashes with police, arrests, destruction of property.
Say I don’t have an opinion about something . . . ok, stay with me here; I know it’s a stretch of the imagination, but pretend for a moment I was busy eating and I know next to nothing about what’s going on.
The moment I see store windows smashed in and cars overturned I will not give one bit of crap about your anger, your reasons for protesting, your message. My only thought will be that the protesters are jerks with no regards for others and hence I have no respect or consideration for them and what they want.
I mean, that’s not exactly true . . . I might agree with the views of the protesters but I will be mad at them for ruining the image of people who hold those views.
“But, but . . . that was only a small part of the protests! Most were peaceful! We sang shit and hugged and sang more shit, some of it even in tune and clever and stuff!”
Yeah, but that’s not what makes the news.
“Yeah, but people are mad! They are passionate about what them summabirches are up to!”
Let me see; where have I heard a similar argument. Oh, yeah . . . Trump used that very excuse when some of his supporters got violent.
We, the enlightened “nice” people, decried the barbarians for their language and behavior. Funny that, isn’t it? How things look different when it’s our own interests on the line. Some protesters hinted that they would be driven to violence against the White House.
OK, that was a celebrity, and you know my feelings on celebrities; they have the right to open their mouths and provide ample proof that they are idiots who do not live in the same world we do and will never suffer the consequences of being idiots.
That’s my second huge reservation about joining protest groups . . . someone other than me will be speaking for me. I would be smeared with the idiot brush wielded by whatever mouthpiece makes it to the news cycle. Because, again, what’s going to get reported, the person who will make the news, will be the most outrageous and vociferous and “newsworthy” individual they can find. Remember, the news wants to sell ads and generate clicks and controversy sells.
Remember, we are trying to inform and possibly change minds, but the minds of people we want to change do not listen to sources who will bother to express our views clearly, concisely, and fairly. The foxtards will show someone breaking something and yelling something and will sit there tsk-tsking the whole affair. No minds changed. If anything, quite the opposite.
Even if that’s not the case, it is unlikely organizers and people who present “the message” to the media will have and voice views that align with mine in anything other than general and vague points. We likely differ on many things, especially what to do about a given problem or concern. But that will not stop the spokespersons from voicing opinions as if speaking for everyone.
“OK, wiseass; what do you suggest we do? Sit at home and fume?”
Well, if you are blocking traffic where I am trying to drive, that is exactly what I would want you to do!
. . . and commit to writing letters to state and federal officials and departments. Not just once, but every month. Be insistent. Ask for their opinions, engage them in discussions. Post their answers in blogs, message boards, Facebook, etc. Write your local paper, get involved.
Now, I know some of the demonstrators are committed. They both demonstrate and are involved, but the majority of demonstrators see the half a day of their time that they donate to the marches as absolving them from doing anything else.
How do I know this? Because senators and representatives do not receive two million letters a month. Or two million calls a month. Or two million faxes a month. They might get e-mail campaigns approaching those numbers, but those are general “we are against this or that” and often require as much effort as hitting a couple of boxes on a form and carry as much weight.
Do you want my suggestions for how to make a difference? It’s work, and I no longer do this because I don’t have kids and because I am old and because I have no confidence in my fellow Americans to rub two ideas together to come up with a third.
That’s right; other than in this here blog — and even here I tend to go in sporadic spurts —I’m checking out. The future for me is, if I’m lucky, between ten and twenty years. I don’t have time to deal with this crap. I got stories to write, photos to take, I’m homeless until we can decide where to live, and I want to spend my time enjoying life with my wife.
When I want drama and concerns, they come find me without me having to go out looking for them, thank you very much.
Do I sound angry? Do I sound bitter? You betcha!
Twenty years and five administrations of debating both the leftards and the rightards, or arguing that “the other side” is not as bad as they are made out to be, of trying to get reason and data into arguments, or battling entrenched ideologies, of watching people get more and more partisan and not give an inch of consideration to those they disagree with.
“Oh, we lost the election! Woe is us! Let’s be even bigger dicks next time around because that seems to work!”
“Oh, we won the election! Yeah, baby! Let’s be dicks and not care about what the other half of the country wants!”
Regan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now . . . Trump. Those same two arguments flip-flopped back and forth between the two parties like clockwork.
Guess what? I don’t really give a rat’s . . .
. . . breathe, breathe . . . that’s it . . . sip of coffee, grab a snack . . . calm down . . .
OK, where was I? Oh yeah . . . my suggestions.
So, THIS site gives you suggestions on how to write your representative. They suggest faxing as the best way, but I suggest all four; fax, call, snail-mail, and e-mail.
Keep it short; no one is going to read a dissertation on why you are upset. Trust me on this; heck you likely stopped reading this ten minutes ago and I’m now talking to myself.
Be on point, ask for a response to a direct question. If your 1,999,999 other buddies are also writing, you are not going to receive an answer, but believe me, them kind of numbers will have an effect.
Set up a schedule, organize letter writing with your local group of merry demonstrators, and none of this crap about form letters. Use your own words to express your own concerns. If you can’t do that, then you have no business demonstrating to begin with; you’re just in it for the glory of carrying a sign around and hopefully appear on TV with a silly grin splashed on your face.
Cycle your efforts write two letters a month, make two calls a month, send two faxes a month, write two e-mails a month, not all on the same day or week.
Stick to one subject and pick your targets wisely. For that, you need to be up on both who is your representative and senator, but also be up on when committees are meeting, which committees are meeting when, and what it is they are considering. Here are some links that might help (there are others for them who care to know):
Write your representative and senator if they are on a committee, but if not, write both your representative and senator AND the head of the committee you want to influence.
While you are at it, write the White House. You’ll get a form letter . . . unless you make threats; don’t do that. Ever. Be polite, concise, and on point.
“Disperser! You dumbass! We want other people to know we care about this or the other thing!”
Let me make a suggestion . . . you know them signs you like to carry around? Organize with the other 1,999,999 buddies of yours, and on a given day each month plant them in your yard. Remove them the next day. Repeat next month. Do this for the whole term of the presidency.
Imagine for a moment, a few weeks from now. The marches and demonstrations will be forgotten by most people. BUT . . . now imagine than once a month, across the whole country people see these signs expressing concerns for the environment, immigration issues, women’s rights, the economy, the horrors of bolognese sauce on pasta when butter suffices.
There is another advantage to doing that . . . neighbors will know there are multiple concerned citizens around them, people with opinions and commitment, people of conviction. Conversations might ensue. Sure, maybe even arguments, but you can control that.
Imagine you are driving to work and you see signs dispersed all over the city. Every month. Post them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram . . . not every day, but that one day a month. Repeat every month. Not every day, not as your backdrop at your site or Facebook or Twitter; once a month. People notice changes and ignore that that stays the same.
Organize, write, act.
And, not just at the federal level. It’s even more important at the local level. Crap-all people vote in local elections, but they are very important. Get involved. Follow the same schedule for your state representatives.
Are you concerned that will not be enough? I have yet another suggestion . . .
You know that idiot celebrity? OK, that’s not specific enough. Enlist the help of a few celebrities. Or do it yourself with your 1,999,999 buddies.
About once a week, Tweet something like this:
How come Trump don’t have a dog? Other presidents did. So SAD.
Once he gets a dog . . .
Trump picked ugly dog. Obama’s dog much better. Very unfair!
. . . and . . .
Trump average president so far. Lying Donald pulled a fast one on us. SAD . . . and, I miss Obama. I even miss Bush.
Did they order smaller pens for when Trump has to sign something? Small hands, SAD.
It don’t look like Trump drinks Diet Coke. Hugely SAD.
The man will be too busy foaming at the Twitter to actually do anything.
You are welcome.
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