Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Power of Protest

This past weekend saw the stunning, worldwide success of the Women's March.

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The spirit of 60s protest has been revived in America over the past few years, starting in earnest with Occupy Wall Street and picking up steam after the killing of Trayvon Martin and subsequent release of his killer. Since then, there have been numerous national protest movements, largely directed at stopping police brutality. After the election of the charlatan-in-chief, protests have gone further mainstream, with celebrities and regular Americans showing up en masse to Saturday's Women's March. 

As much as it was a stand against Frump, it was also a sign of solidarity with women and women's rights. I thought it was great and I hope it continues. People shouldn't and won't simply forget the comments Trump and many of his supporters made (and continue to make) that are not only offensive to women, but all of humanity, as well as the very fabric of reality itself. Even more offensive are his policies, which will have a disproportionately adverse effect on women and children. 

Of course, not everyone feels this way. Which is fine! I appreciate alternative opinions (not alternative facts, those are simply lies, you Revolutionary War cosplayer) when they are informed by true facts and honest reflection. I also see the necessity of a conservative view in politics and government. Any healthy democracy has balance and dissent. I have strong opinions, and I voice them (or at least write them) for my own sanity and to maybe help someone else formulate their own opinion. I don't discredit someone's humanity just because of a certain opinion they may have, but I will fully and strongly support my own perspective, and I'm not going to change my mind to make anybody comfortable. There are certain opinions and ideologies that outweigh any bonds I may have with someone. I know all of my true friends don't agree with me on everything (in most cases it's just a matter of degree, in others it's a case of complete disagreement) but the issues we disagree on aren't vital to my humanity, such as the importance of equality and diversity. They wouldn't be my friends otherwise.

The Women's March was interesting because it was vague enough so that being against it would mean you're kind of against women. That was genius! Who could be against women? Plenty of people, apparently. Obviously, many Dump supporters were not too fond of it because they realized this was a rally against Dump, his comments, and his policies. I think a lot of Dump's female supporters (53% of white women voted for Dump) were a little perplexed because they wanted to support women but didn't want to oppose Dump, not realizing (or accepting) that supporting Dump is indeed opposing women. It was a bit of an existential crisis, and hopefully, it made them question their decision.

Some people genuinely didn't know what the march was about, but many would "inquire" about it in a not-too-subtle derogatory manner; usually not enough to be openly offensive, but with a clear intent of devaluing the protest. I saw many comments like, "Why are they doing it now and not before the election? Why don't they wait until laws are actually changed? Why don't they wait until some other arbitrary time that still wouldn't satisfy my bullshit complaints anyway?" I made that last one up probably, but the others were common. If these curious cats really wanted to know what it was all about, there were plenty of sources to find out. Instead, they would purposely troll people who attended or showed support with questions disguised as genuine curiosity or concern and really intended to distract from and demean the massive show of solidarity.

But those questions are the least of the concerning statements I saw. There was a lot of push back from mostly white men disputing that a women's march is even necessary. "America is the best country in the world for women!" Even if that were true, does that mean things can't get better? That's another tactic to shut down protest. It's a tactic of abusive partners, too. Telling victims of oppression (any level of oppression) that they should appreciate how good they have it. It happens after every protest. After Black Lives Matter protests: "Oh you don't like it here, go back to Africa!" I saw guys telling women they should be protesting Saudi Arabia's treatment of women. I had never seen so many white men care about women's rights in Saudi Arabia until Saturday. Weird timing!

The idea is to convince people that what they're protesting really isn't that bad, or that it's not really an issue at all. Police brutality? You're lucky to have police! It used to be even worse, so get over it! "They" (as DJ Khaled would say) want you to believe things can never get better than they are right now, so don't even bother. Just accept everything as it is. There's no significant difference in how women are treated in this country! There's no push to restrict access to reproductive rights and services even though republicans literally ran on defunding Planned Parenthood! There's no "glass ceiling" in America! The percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 is only 4% because men work harder and longer! Damn near 20% of Congress is female, so what's your problem, ladies?

The general idea that these complaints are trying to push forward is that sexism is over. It's the same mode of thinking that said racism was over because Obama won. Although, going by that logic, wouldn't it mean sexism is alive because Clinton lost? Logic isn't really their strong point, unfortunately.

Speaking of Clinton, that was another complaint. "They're just butthurt their candidate didn't win!" Well, engaging with this ridiculous complaint makes everyone a loser, but I'm willing to do so just so nobody else will have to (my posts end all debate on a given topic, right?). If people are mad their candidate didn't win, they have every right to protest, just as Obama's critics did. Although there were significantly less nooses and burning effigies during this protest. The Tea Party (the original and the knockoff) was created as a protest movement; I didn't agree with any of their stances, and their signs/outfits/hygiene were often sickening, but they had every right to protest.

Image result for tea party protests
Pictured: a perfectly valid protest based on an incredibly invalid complaint. 

Secondly, this was not about Clinton. Some people certainly expressed their continued support of her, but she was not the center of this movement. It was absolutely anti-Trump, but anti-Trump doesn't necessarily mean pro-Hillary (as my previous post explained. Come on people, you're clearly not reading my posts). Hell, half the people I know who voted for Clinton didn't really like her that much, they just didn't want Trump. Rightfully so.

I mean, she did get 3 million more votes...and people do have a legitimate gripe with the electoral college...and Russia and the FBI played some role in the election results, although the degree is certainly up for debate...but we'll leave all that alone.

Because of the broad scope of reasons behind the march, some people criticized it for a lack of focus. "You ask ten different people why they're marching and they give you ten different issues!" Right. There are a lot of issues that affect women. Again, that was part of its beauty. The idea was to unite a vast array of people passionately supporting a variety of important issues and recognizing that these disparate issues don't divide us, they make us stronger. There's a sense of empowerment in such large gatherings, and that alone is reason enough to march.

Some even tried to complain about it being too vulgar. Apparently, grabbing a pussy without consent and bragging about it is not vulgar enough to prevent someone from becoming president, but saying the word pussy or writing it on a cardboard sign is too vulgar for a protest.

All in all though, I saw less criticisms of this protest than most over the last few years. Maybe more people are beginning to understand the necessity of protest. Or maybe people are more accepting of mostly white female protesters. Cops certainly are. People tout the lack of arrests as a great thing, which it is I suppose, but it also speaks to what happens when police are supportive of protests instead of confrontational. When police are high-fiving protesters, you know the vibe is a little different than usual.

Image result for black women in dress against cops
And don't give me that "well these protestors were being peaceful" bullshit. 
Ieshia Evans was in a damn prom dress. 

I wasn't surprised that there were no arrests for this march, but it was a bit odd seeing cops so supportive of a largely anti-Trump rally since 92% of cops voted for Trump. I wonder if cops told the protesters who they voted for. I wonder how many of the protesters voted for Trump. I wonder how many protesters condemned earlier protests in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

Hopefully many of the women and men who showed up for the Women's March will show up or at least express their support for the next Black Lives Matter protests. The central tenets of both movements are very much aligned, and both movements need each other to make a lasting impact.

The biggest difference between these protests and the majority of protests with numerous arrests was the amount of people of privilege. Not only were there more white women than usual (a group of people that historically gets a little more leniency from police than let's say...everybody) but there were also a number of celebrities in attendance. My girl ScarJo was speaking out. That little gremlin Madonna was speaking out (which, in all honesty, doesn't help any cause) and many others. No cop is trying to be a subject of a celebrity's next project.

Cops respond a little less aggressively with celebrities, but the online complaints increase in aggressiveness when it comes to celebrities speaking out. The legendary, iconic Meryl Streep caught a bunch of heat for speaking out against Harrumph during a speech at an awards show. Award shows are the most meaningless event imaginable, and people got mad at what she chose to spend her 5 minutes talking about. The president-elect himself took the time to comment, instead of I don't know, taking intelligence briefings or something. That means her speech worked. Protests are supposed to get people talking about a topic. So if it comes from a celebrity or a twitter activist or a politician, the fact that people are discussing it means it is effective.

Generally, people want celebrities to shut up when they disagree with their own stance. If Streep was praising Trump, how many of his supporters would have said celebrities should stay out of politics? And, conversely, do you think so many people would have supported her if she praised Trump? Remember Michael Moore speaking out against the popular (at the time) war in Iraq at the Oscars? The "Hollywood elite liberals" largely booed him.

The media (those scalawags!) don't make it any better; they know that celebrities are just bait for our arguments, so they love to find the stupidest celebrities with the stupidest beliefs and give them airtime. Is there any reason for a Duck Dynasty cast member to talk about race relations in America? No. And no rational person would care to ask. But when some racist nonsense is splashed on the screen, people eat it up, either because they finally see someone with their views unafraid to voice them publicly, or they are utterly horrified and have to condemn it. Jimbo says the dumbest thing you've ever heard, and you just have to share it on Facebook with some angry redface emojis as the caption.

The reality is, in a world with the guy from Celebrity Apprentice as President (and the current guy from Celebrity Apprentice is an actor turned governor) nobody can ever tell a celebrity to stay out of politics ever again. This stupid complaint should've ended when Ronald Reagan, a B-list actor for decades before becoming a conservative spokesperson against "socialized medicine," was elected Governor and then president.

Athletes get it the worst. Colin Kaepernick is the latest and greatest athlete activist. He sparked a movement and dominated the nationwide discussion for weeks. I can't keep track of how many people shouted some variation of, "Shut up and play, boy!" Some of these same people posted images and quotes from Muhammad Ali when he passed. The nerve.

Nobody understands irony anymore. These people want to praise activists of the past and condemn those of the present, not realizing which side they are truly on. They are the villains in the movies from the 60s. They are the bad guys in Ali. In Selma. Of course, there's always a vapid excuse to explain away the glaring contradiction. "Things have gotten a lot better since then, they should appreciate how good they have it!" Or, "Well, they shouldn't protest in that way!"

The absolute worst is when people bring MLK into their condemnation of protesters. "I agree with the cause just not the way he's doing it. MLK would never divide the country!" Shut the entire hell up. You would be the same exact assholes shouting him down and throwing shit at him. Before his assassination (you remember how he was killed right? He wasn't left to live until a ripe old age. Ring a bell?) almost 2/3 of the country did not approve of him or his "methods." It's real easy to voice support for him now, but when it comes to the present day, the very same people claiming to be experts on MLK's causes and actions seem to be against them at every turn.

I saw a lot of people claiming Kaepernick has nothing to complain about, he's rich! One sportscaster tweeted a picture of Kap and his family (a well off white family) asking how could he possibly complain about inequality. Again, missing the point, and in fact proving it. Basically the guy was saying he couldn't have been struggling because his adopted family was white. So, white privilege does exist! Which is Kaepernick's point! Some people clearly don't understand empathy, or the concept of standing up for a cause. You don't have to be personally struggling to stand up for the struggle.

Then people turned it into a military thing, which was an intentional misunderstanding and obfuscation of his point. He made his reasoning very clear, and people simply chose to ignore it and label it anti-military, either because they disagreed with his stance outright and didn't want to admit that, or they just wanted to get on with their Sunday routine without having any tough conversations on race. "The troops" is everyone's favorite rhetorical pawn. Once again, the irony was missed by most of the detractors. The troops serve to protect our right to stand or not stand during the national anthem, and our right to express our feelings on our decision to stand or not stand for the national anthem.

Sports fans love to watch movies with players of every color coming together as a team (who doesn't love Remember the Titans?) but we don't want to talk about the same issues pertaining to real people in real time. We don't want to hear Kap's reason for protesting. Standing for the national anthem is something you just do, so his actions look like disrespect. I'd argue that going along with something just because everyone else is doing it is more disrespectful to the American spirit. Simply standing for an anthem out of tradition does not make you a patriot. Kap kneeling makes us question the concept of patriotism, and some people can't handle that.

To this day, some people claim it was all just a publicity stunt. The guy gives a million dollars to charity and works in his community every week, and yet they will still tell you he was just doing it because he wasn't a good quarterback anymore. Yeah. I'm sure that if he was winning, all of these people would have no problem with him protesting. There must be a level of success above Colin Kaeprnick and below Meryl Streep that is just right for protesting.

There is no such thing as an "appropriate" protest, because the people who would dictate how and when someone should protest are the very people protests are aimed at. Protest is supposed to make people uncomfortable. The audience is supposed to question long held beliefs. Protest causes a disturbance to the status quo, and it is one of the most fundamental means of voicing one's opinion.

As the pushback against protesters continues, and legislators seek to literally legalize killing protesters, it's more and more important to keep standing for what you believe in and supporting others who do, too. Look for connections to be made between those who passionately support civil/equal rights issues. The issues we care about unite us more than divide us. Make your feminism and anti-racism and support for LGBT rights intersectional. If you supported the Women's March, support Black Lives Matter and #NoDAPL protests and trans rights rallies. Understand that the same claims made to discredit or degrade one protest will be used against whatever cause you support. Start listening to the people who have been organizing and protesting around these issues for years now. People (myself included) need to be more consistently engaged and understand how these issues are connected and how they affect our daily lives.

And one last thing...

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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