Rallies and protests. What do they accomplish?
It’s a fair question. Here’s how I answer it for myself.
Protest is an affirmation of mutual concern and responsibility. These events put pressure on leaders. They remind us that we’re not alone in our despair or fury. They communicate ways to help. They counter nihilism. They help us feel less helpless. They can become a public symbol of hope and they provide images that can be shared in media. Protest can show victims they are loved and cared for.
Protest is the opposite of silence, and authoritarians love silence.
There’s power in being a public witness to injustice. There’s meaning in saying that wrong things are wrong, out loud. When you protest well, others may experience higher awareness of an issue. Awareness can be a path to pitching in, to voting well, to empathy. Freedom of speech is strengthened whenever we use it well. Why not put your body into a crowd, beneath the rain, just for an hour. In doing so you will remind yourself that you are a part of the world, a participant, a truth teller, a neighbor, and not merely an observer, waiting for the dark curtain of injustice to fall upon you, next.
Hope can be an activity. Sometimes, we do it together. There is always music. Children and old people. Flags. Homemade signs; sweary or funny or sad or smart. Perhaps the world will remain as dark as ever. Maybe it will change. We have no way of knowing! So we stand in the rain and we agree that we want the world to change. Silence can become too painful. Silence sometimes feels like shame, like giving up, like not caring. We listen and tell stories and share what we know. We learn who has a hook into the problem, and we share our love and applause and money. We see that we’re not alone, and despite the apparent uselessness of standing in the rain with strangers, by some miracle, doing so renews us. We find the strength to keep on trying. We haven’t given up. We’re ready for the next vote, the next conversation, the next attempt.
These are the reasons I stand outside.