November 13, 2016

The value of protest.

My girlfriend and I had just left the movie theater, a brief two-hour respite from all the craziness of the last week, when our phones lit up. There was yet another protest in front of Donald Trump's hotel in Washington, DC. Neither of us is the protesting type, so it was a little surprising to see the attraction on both of our faces. The times, they are a-changin'.

Things we've learned in the last several days: Democrats almost universally failed in the 2016 election, Donald Trump is preaching a vague message of tolerance while handing the reins of his administration to career politicians with hate in their hearts, reports of hate crimes have increased considerably, the Western world is trending toward far-right rule that will place blame on those who cannot properly defend themselves.

Those are all excellent reasons to protest.

These protests are not for a recall or redo (unlike the petition going around to sway Electoral College voters, a blatant attempt to circumvent the process we were so staunchly upholding mere weeks ago). No one is flooding the streets of Los Angeles or DC thinking that Donald Trump will abdicate the throne.

Protesting does not have to be laser-focused at one initiative, movement, or piece of legislation. It's about making people uncomfortable, forcing them to reckon with the reality of the situation and take a hard look at those who refuse to sit silently. It's about exposing hypocrisy; you're pro-Trump and anti-hate, yet you can't fathom why those potentially threatened by his policies (young people, the LGBTQ community, people of color) would gather so soon, and with such frequency.

It's about taking chances: this man will be president in less than two months, with a vast surveillance apparatus at his disposal and a penchant for vengefulness. But to waste this passion, and ignore this moment in history where the world is taking a step backward out of confusion and fear, would be a passive failure at a time when action is needed.

It's about reminding the world—many of whom can't fathom how you go from Barack Obama to Donald Trump—that only 60 million of the 318 million people in the United States chose Trump as their leader. And it's a note to those in Congress, in state legislatures, and in governors' mansions across the country: if you back any hateful policies, this all will be turned against you next.

It's about inspiring crowds in other towns and cities to follow along with Portland, New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma City. It's about using social media for its best possible purpose—helping like-minded people organize and communicate in communities around the world—and reinforcing hope when you feel like the only voice among the silence.

It’s about climate change, climate change, climate change. One of our presidential candidates believed in its detrimental effects and supported the Paris climate agreement; the other thinks it's a Chinese hoax. We elected the second one, and that particular stance of his is more likely to doom us than any social or economic legislation enacted or rescinded during his tenure.

It's even about reminding the Democratic Party that the people have the power, that Hillary Clinton ended up being the wrong choice for this time and place but we can make the right ones in 2018 and 2020. President-elect Trump was right about his rallies creating the fervor that won the election; we need candidates and ideas to inspire that same fervor, or the consequences could be dire.

We didn't protest last night, but it could be a very different story come Inauguration Day. And though President-elect Trump spoke outagainst the protests post-Election Day, he called for the very same thing after President Obama's victory in 2012:
It seems that Trump's stances on protests, much like his campaign promises, flip when convenient. All the more reason to make our voices heard.