As Trump's inauguration approaches, so do the myriad protests. If you're like me, you'll spend January 20th not giving him ratings, then spend January 21 at a Women's March in your area, expressing your outrage with this administration and the hate it stands for.
I'm excited and furious at the same time — excited to be surrounded by others who believe in the radical notion of equality; furious because we all have to be fighting in the first place. I'm proud of the Women's March team for their progressive and hard-hitting platform. I hope the collective of marches hits historic numbers, bringing about one of the largest demonstrations for human rights this country has ever seen.
Obviously this is a very powerful time to be attending a protest. But sometimes, I can't shake the feeling that protesting doesn't do shit.
You can't argue with it as an act of catharsis. On election night I discovered that it feels incredible to chant "Fuck Mike Pence" through a megaphone with a group of strangers — not only because yelling "fuck" really loud feels good (which it FUCKING DOES), but because in a crowd that's all pushing the same direction, your anger somehow starts to feel productive.
When John Lewis reflects on his smiling mugshot, he says, "I smiled bc I was on the right side of history." His smirk embodies the strange pleasure of fighting against the unjust: you're not happy to be there per say, but you're sure as hell happy to not be somewhere else.
Protesting is, by its nature and legal restrictions, inherently an impotent* act. It holds lawmakers accountable, but does not in and of itself change laws. It demands change, but has no immediate follow through. It is loud, but it doesn't weave through the tunnels of bureaucracy needed to get things done.
I work in marketing, so please forgive this capitalist metaphor: in a way, protesting is similar to advertising. Brands know they should do it because they know it works, but they aren't sure exactly how and why — most data and numbers aren't able to be directly correlated, but results almost always happen eventually. After running commercials, flyers, or bus station ads, awareness inevitably increases. You've put your message into the pool of thought, and consciousness shifts will follow.
Beyond that, though, protesting is about something more important: keeping the rage alive. It's about remembering how mad you are, and letting that anger feel GOOD — experiencing the same odd joy that caused John Lewis to smile. It's about realizing you aren't alone, because realizing that is the only way you can move mountains.
Protesting is not an excuse to get lazy. It's not a substitute for joining a local organization, or running for office, or setting up a monthly donation. And there are ways to make it more meaningful — for example, combine it with a pledge to strike, and let your absence from work, home, and more be heard.
For those who are already organized to fight back, protesting likely was once a catalyst for your activism, and now it's a form of fuel to keep going. For people who haven't harnessed their power just yet, protesting can be an unforgettable first step.
See you out there. Forget our new POTUS — 2017 belongs to us.
*I promise this word choice is not a Mike Pence joke.