Before I begin this post, let me just be clear about something first. I see nothing wrong with venting and speaking our truth in the face of lies. It is good for us to be vocal. I am vocal. This article isn't saying you should only sing the classic Tip Toe Through The Tulips in the face of fear, hardship and even perceived hardship. What I'm seeking to get people to see is looking at this thing called effectiveness. Effectiveness toward what? Toward change. Positive, efffective change. So, please don't write me to accuse me of trying to silence you because that is not what I am saying.
Behind Every Bully's Post
The change most of us want, even when we get hot blooded angry, is positive and good for the country and those around us. For, behind every protest and cry for change and charge of injustice is a desire that something be done about it. However, our ranting and verbal protesting that stems into becoming daily rants can put us in a role of regurgitating the very hate and insulting messages we say we are against. It is easy for bullies with high platforms to Tweet messages that enrage people and what does a bully want more than to be heard, known and feared? By propagating every offensive thing a Trump-like character may say on social media just rekindles the anger in your own "followers". Nothing more. How do I know? Let's face it, most of our followers on social media are people who think and believe like we do. Maybe not all (God bless our families right?) but most of our followers are like-minded. There is a saying for this. It's called "preaching to choir" in some circles. But, many don't see it way. We imagine that the world is watching, maybe even the opposing person themselves or those in power are seeing every protesting rant we have on social media. News feeds morph from 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' to 'Spit Fire for the Soul' with bitter, daily meditations on what was said that was bad today. Give a bully your ear and they will swallow your whole head. They feed off the attention. With such people, I ask myself if this bully was standing on my street corner what would I do? I would do everything to push their voice out of my life.
With all the stress we cause ourselves and others by spreading the messages of bullies and ignorant people on a day by day basis, the biggest effect we have is this message: "see how terrible this is". Well, several months into this election now, yes. Progressives, in particular, got it already. There is enough out there for us to have a solid case. We just need to act now. The rest of the world doesn't read your Facebook or Tweet feeds. Only your followers do so the only effect you are having is commiserating together. And if that is all you want to accomplish, to sit back and point out how terrible a person is or what they said to people who are already clued into that, that is your prerogative. I would ask you though, down deep inside, wouldn't you rather use that energy to make a difference and make a change? Wouldn't you rather use the space you are letting bullies occupy to be replaced by other things? I promise one effect it will have if you don't take a different approach: it is going to make you into one bitter person over the next four years. You will probably end up with an ulcer or worse. Just like if you are a Trump voter and feed into the hateful messages you may be receiving because you voted for an unpopular candidate. If you just focus on those who hate your candidate and get angry about their protest, than your just stressing yourself out with no change being made.
Michelle Obama's Message To You
It was interesting what Michelle Obama said recently on the Jimmy Fallon show. She said that the Bushes were avid supporters of them in their transition and still are, and that they themselves (the Obamas) plan to be avid supporters of the Trumps in their transition in order to keep, what she called, "emulating this tradition of decency" with them and also, they would be offering their support after the transition to include their children. She was sincere and believable and it blew my mind. This from the President's wife, a President we are bemoaning the exit of. I can imagine that they are both avid supports of engaging in positive change and impact instead of this angry grip that completely occupies our news feeds. Don't you? That is what I heard from her when she concluded by saying 'This isn't about party. All of us support each other. Everyone in Washington is trying to make good changes.' I propose that for every greedy person in Washington that has been bought by corporations there is probably another who aims to do good.
Why A Street Protest May Not Work
Regardless, if you believe or agree with any of that or not...I've been thinking and I'm sure you have too...what can I do to bring change? I want to allow for places that I too can vent which may include Facebook. However, by and large, I want to effect change, don't you? One of the things I thought about was joining a protest on inauguration day. It seemed like a good idea but something in the back of my mind was saying "What effect does it have?". Do you hear that in your head too? Honestly, I've seen a lot of protests in my 40 some years. From Occupy Wall Street to Ferguson and even people right here in Michigan occupying our capital in various protests. Despite all these demonstrations, we are still talking about the same things. We are a bunch of talking heads who are tuned out by the opposing side. No change is brought. Our protests in this decade have stirred a lot of conversation, a lot of talking, but not much change at all. I researched this and sure enough, the cases in which street protests really did anything are rare and they usually aren't even in this country. They are usually centered around a complete overthrow of government when they are ever effective. In an article entitled, "Why Street Protests Don't Work" Moises Naim talks about both, the cases where it did work "In Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine " and where it hasn't worked. Where it hasn't worked is largely in our own street protests in the last decade. He points out this is because there is often no organizing body behind these protests to have a follow-up with actions that make a difference. Not just violence or looting or just gathering in a street. I do think these kinds of things can embolden us so I don't think they are without effect but not with much change within the last few years at least. We do of course have the protests of the Civil Rights Movement that led marches in the streets but that had leadership, a dynamic power like Martin Luther himself and an organized body.
Niam states it perfectly that social media is a tool that can be used" to identify, recruit, mobilize, and coordinate supporters as well as to fundraise... we also know that clicktivism and slacktivism undermine real political work by creating the feel-good illusion that clicking “like’’ on a Facebook page or tweeting incendiary messages from the comfort of one’s computer or smartphone is equivalent to the activism that effects change." (Niam, 2014)
For example, we have seemed to not noticed (on both sides of the political spectrum) that protests occur on opposing sides of most presidential elections and YET that hasn't resulted in any effective change or stopped a president from being inaugurated. It is not that it is not with any effect. I think in some sense it can embolden us and make us feel we have support which can be better than nothing. Occupy Wallstreet, though not effective for change, was noted and will go down in history. Look at how widespread that movement was, but I have to agree with Niam that this was the case because it was fueled completely by social media. Yet, it pretty much garnered no effect because there was no leadership, and no action taken. The 2% still have the greatest share of the wealth and now there is no end in sight with a leader who is proponent and actually representative of that 2%.
Effective Acts of Resistance
I personally haven't been too involved beyond voting, signing petitions, and writing my senators and representatives and attending a rally or two. I was taught as a Christian to not engage or worry about politics and it suited me just fine because I had my day to day worries to deal with. But, this election cycle has been a huge wake-up call to a lot people. I want to do more now but I want it to be effective, don't you? I want it to be a good investment of my energy, not just a number counted. I want effective change by, as Michelle Obama put it, "emulating this tradition of decency". If you do too, I think I've come up with some pretty powerful ideas for you.
I've taken the following from a well-written article and tweaked it, giving you some ways to do "Acts of Resistance" on and beyond Inauguration Day. A large part of this comes from an article recently published by Jon Pavlovitz called "10 Acts of Resistance on Inauguration Day" @johnpavlovitz.com. I added in my own ideas and made it not AS anti-Trump per say. I want to appeal to Trump voters too. I'm seeing less and less a need to be so isolating to the other side as an effective tool in getting things done. There are voters who won't' have anything ever to do with the other side of the political debate but a large number of us are and should be more open to discussion than simply engaging polarizing rhetoric. Therefore, if you are interested in doing something different, consider putting your energy here. I know I am!
1. An act of Kindness/Service--Kindness, patience and thought towards those who are disenfranchised or not thought much about is counter to the thrust of what has been a largely negative me-me-me campaign. We need to reach out to others different than us and who are in need because many are scared now about what is going to happen to them. Two groups who have been particularly disparaged are Mexicans and Muslims.
2. Financial Activism--Money doesn't just talk, it empowers agencies to do things that need to get done. As Niam states, do some research and give to organisations that are doing work to fight discrimination and injustice.
3. Join Local Organizations--Join a political party you can support, or maybe actually show up to one of those organizations you are financially supporting. Get in there and fight with those striving for equal treatment and support for diversity. It could be faith-based, non-profit, or something grass roots. As Niam states beautifully, "Leverage the powerful resource of your presence" by joining work that moves you.
4. Be A Bridge Across the Divide--visit a place of worship you know nothing about, especially those in the Muslim faith that this new administration has been so disparaging about and who are afraid right now. Have coffee with someone who believes different than you do, or attend a community gathering. Division never solved much of anything. Be the bigger person, show some heart and expand your awareness of cultures and beliefs different than your own. For example a few years ago, I attended an atheist group for some time because I'm faith based but I wanted to learn more about what they felt and went through. Yes, it was uncomfortable for me, but I also came out with a friend who has lasted the years, and I learned a lot about them and myself.
5. Get Involved In Schools--Attend school board meetings, or city board meetings. With the new secretary of education, our school systems are probably going to go under a lot of stress and potential restructuring into some kind of larger charter type system. Whatever side you are on about that issue, it doesn't matter. Schools will need your support. Be there on the ground floor and make your voice heard.
6. Read--The new President-Elect has come out in support for those who don't read. I know many people are actually a bit ashamed they don't like to read or can't read. I see boasting as a defense mechanism to hidden shame on this topic and I don't believe our President Elect is actually as proud of his lack of reading as he boasts. There are two things you can do to this regard. Read to yourself some positive and encouraging things to counter the negative cycle of news you hear for a change. Also, you can volunteer to teach others how to read. There are always local branches for this.
7. Rest--Everyone has been pretty active with listening to the news and social media and engaging in it. Consider resting, unplug and shut down. Get out in nature or go to places that get you centered or recharged. Perhaps it involves praying, meditating or music. In times of stress and grief, we need to do this to re-charge and "fight the good fight".
**of course, stay engaged with your senators on reps--a no-brainer. Here's an example of a place to help you find your representative. Take Me To Your Leader!
Let us be the change we want to see in the world. We can't just complain and say how bad it is every time a person utters a ridiculous statement. At the very least, it is not all we should do. It is more important that we act in good ways to counter evil and promote decency. We need to now more than ever before. Who else is going to do it if not those who are awake and aware?