By Karen Petree
I don’t really take part in protests, probably for the same reasons I refuse to do the wave at ball games. I love them though. I love being there as an observer, the way it feels when a huge mass of people come together with a common energy. It’s kind of like a rock concert for those of us fascinated by politics.
That being said, protests are a pain in the ass if you are trying to get around. They can get violent and turn into riots, which is inexcusable; and regardless of the motivations of the protestors, human psychology is sometimes prone to madness in crowds. That’s why it is important that protest movements have strong leaders.
Some of you might be thinking that these protestors are “whiney babies” who “need a spanking” as I heard one YouTubing Texan put it (only a Texan could turn a Facebook thread about protesting into a spat about who’s not getting their butt whooped enough and with what implement, but I digress…). But inconvenient as they may be to you, peaceful protest is absolutely necessary to the functioning of a free country. Seeing a huge mass of people in front of the White House or Trump tower, or marching down an avenue reminds us that we live in a country where when the People feel the need, we can come out together in a show of force where our leaders have to see us and have a hard time ignoring the size of our will and vision for our country.
You can complain all you want about the “young kids” who are protesting. It’s true that many (but certainly not all) protestors are young. After all, college is when many of us came politically aware, after all. And it’s a time when raw idealism seems more tangible than quixotic. Most of them will become disillusioned when they inevitably enter the oh-so-important “real world,” the majority of whose residents, judging by their Facebook pages, have either lost hope entirely or seek escape through booze and BuzzFeed quizzes.
And another thing, those “bratty college kids” are the ones who will realize our future. Many of us are extremely concerned about 2017. The electoral college is confusing as hell, especially when we’ve been raised to believe that the United States is a democracy. The Constitution starts, “We the people,” not “We the electoral college.” Some of the protestors may even be holding out hope that Clinton will win in the end, but not because they are “sore losers.” Some are. A lot of people hoped Clinton would win, but had she lost to another Republican candidate, would’ve been disappointed but okay with it. Probably as okay with it as Republican voters would’ve been if Trump (or Rubio or Cruz) had lost to Clinton.
But Clinton didn’t lose to Rubio or Cruz. She lost to a man who said that he would round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants. “Well but those are whiney, white college kids protesting,” some have said. From what I understand, the protestors reflect the general demographic profile of the country, but even if hey a disproportionate number of white people are protesting, it’s because Trump’s rhetoric affects people they love. It affects the families of many of my friends as well as some of my students, like those whose first memories were formed here in the United States but didn’t find out until they were teenagers that they are undocumented. In my opinion, those kids are every bit as American as I am. And they might get to stay, but the fact is they don’t know that for sure. They don’t know if one day, someone will knock on their door and deport them to an unfamiliar country where they don’t know anyone, have no resources and possibly can’t even communicate in the local language. That’s terrifying. If you don’t understand that, you need a lesson in empathy. And even if those people get to stay, what about their parents? I think about how hard it is on my family when I leave to travel for a month or two. What would it do to them to know I would never come back?
Clinton lost to a man who is supported by the KKK because his policies are in line with their hateful vision for our country. The Ku Klux Klan are not just buffoons who wear stupid outfits and exercise their First Amendment right. They are people who lynched black people and set crosses alight in their front yards. They are the people who kept the non-white population in fear for their lives and well being until, among other things, a civil disobedience movement grew larger and more powerful than the Klan’s hate.
Let the protestors have their say. Put pressure on them to keep it peaceful, call them out in no uncertain terms when they hold up signs or shout chants that don’t reflect a way forward, be inconvenienced and swear under your breath if you need to, but be thankful that you live in a country where this is possible. Acknowledge that the right to protest is what has gotten us this far.
And more importantly, listen to the protestors. If this election has taught us anything, it’s that we all need to do a better job of listening to each other.