So, as you may know, I live in Washington DC and nearly every weekend this year there has been a protest of some sort going on. A couple months ago one of them almost made me late to a soccer game! Driving into the city on the weekends, I’m always passing by tiny groups of protesters making their way home carrying the remaining signs they didn’t leave lying around the streets and monuments
(not #fakenews – the day after the women’s march the ground was literally layered in protester’s signs and trash).
So all this has got me thinking – has all this expended energy and money effected any real change?
Of course to some extent or another this is extremely difficult to measure. Is Trump still president? Yes. Have his two main pushes so far, immigration and healthcare, succeeded? No. But, in this complicated world of ours it is rare (if ever) a single thing which affects change… so what are the protests accomplishing?
First off, it engenders a culture which pressures people into either “loudly” expressing their opinions or being viewed with distaste for not caring enough. If you aren’t a part of the protests then you somehow stand actively contrary to the message. I’m not saying people actually say this (though we all know some have), but it creates a culture where that is how people feel only causing tensions to rise. Instead of feeling open to talk about their differing opinions people are intimidated into silence.
Rather than development you get bullying.
Second, you end up dragging in people who have not necessarily had the chance to actually think through the issues. Instead, it is all about what the group is doing rather than a meaningful discussion on what is best or even WHY it is best to solve the problem by demonstrating. The atmosphere has become defined by pathos (an appeal to emotion) rather than logos (an appeal to logic) which means the people standing next to you in the protests may or may not know why precisely the issue is a problem, why protesting is the best answer, or be able to defend these positions to someone who genuinely wants to learn.
Finally, when someone is taking part in a violent, loud, or otherwise emotion-driven protest they are degrading themselves. Before you get upset – here’s what I mean by that, when you stand up next to Dr. Martin Luther King you look like the smaller person. Dr. King used peaceful protests to generate and demonstrate solidarity for the movement. He used words which spoke to all mankind in an effort to bring them together.
It wasn’t about demonizing or threatening the enemy, it was about revealing to him the error of his ways.
You have a choice to either put your arm around your fellow Americans to plead and convince them of the light or you can yell, fight, and tell them how “evil’ they are. If you were back in school picking teams to play Capture the Flag would you want to be on the team that just spent the last ten minutes yelling and screaming about how you were (insert your choice of negative comments here)? I think not…