It’s been quite a week.
I don’t know about you, but I find it exhausting simply trying to keep track of all the scary things that are happening in the United States right now. An abbreviated list of people and other entities and ideals currently being threatened would include Muslims, immigrants, refugees, Jews, people of color, LGBTQ people, women, anyone getting their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, polar bears, coastal regions worldwide, transparency in government, tolerance of dissent, the U.S. Constitution, and, you know, democracy.
While last night’s news that a Seattle judge has blocked the immigration ban was relieving and encouraging, it’s just a temporary fix for one of many problems. This is far from over. Just so it’s clear where I’m coming from, I should mention that I myself am pretty safe right now: I am white, I am not Muslim, and I was born in the United States. But lots of other people in my community (and beyond) are not safe. And that’s terrifying.
So, let’s talk about protests.
I’ve been to three protests in the past two weeks, which is three more protests than I had ever been to in my life before that. I have learned that I am a person who holds signs and yells.
The first protest was the Women’s March, which I wrote about last week. The second was a protest against the travel/immigration ban at the Boston airport last Saturday evening. The third was a protest last Sunday at Copley Square in Boston, against the ban and in support of Muslims and immigrants.
Here are some useful tips I am learning about protesting:
- CVS sells posterboard.
- Make your sign two-sided if possible.
- Tape a stick or a ruler or something to your sign to save your arms from having to hold it up.
- Eat beforehand.
- Bring water.
- Bring gloves and a hat.
- Get there early, especially if you’re taking public transportation.
- Do not stand directly in front of blaring speakers.
- If it is a large protest, there will be little/no cell service in the area.
- Do not expect to be able to meet up with anyone at the protest. Meet up beforehand and go together.
I feel like I’m starting to understand the power of protesting—the power of putting your actual body in a particular place with a whole lot of other bodies. A large mass of human bodies standing together is powerful. A large mass of human bodies standing together and holding signs and shouting loudly is even more powerful. The more bodies standing together in one place shouting loudly, the better.
I’ve also been thinking about what protesting does for me, the protestor. Whatever the president may say (or tweet), neither I nor any other protestor is getting paid for doing this. But I do feel like I get something out of it. For one thing, I get to feel like I’m part of a community, at least for those couple of hours: everyone is there for roughly the same reason, in support of the same cause. It also makes me feel like I’m doing something, which counteracts the feeling of helplessness that I’ve been experiencing over the past three months. So those both feel like good things.
However, as one of the scarier articles I read this week points out, protesting can be falsely cathartic—i.e., that you go to the protest, get all your anger out, and go home feeling like you’ve solved a problem and there is nothing left to do…which is not really the case. I think that’s a really good point, so I’ve been trying to bear it in mind. There is still much more to do.
So because the purpose of this blog is to figure out steps I can take, and to stay accountable, here are a few more action items to add to my list from last week:
- Support news organizations that are reporting on current events with courage and integrity. Fact-based reporting is one of the most important tools we have in standing up against injustice, and journalists who do this kind of reporting need money to do it. If you have suggestions of specific news organizations that deserve support (in the form of paid subscriptions), please share them!
- Attend planning and letter-writing events. There are tons of these going on right now, hosted by regular people in their homes. Here is one website that can help you find events near you.
- Calling senators is great, and I’m going to keep doing it, but because I live in Massachusetts, the person taking the call usually says something like, “Don’t worry, Senator Warren is already fighting that cabinet nomination, but thank you so much for calling to add your voice!” I’m trying to figure out what other numbers I can call in Washington to complain about various issues, especially now that the White House apparently no longer has a general comment line. I have heard of people calling Trump hotels to complain about executive orders; perhaps I should do this too. If you have any other suggestions of specific offices/numbers to call about specific issues, please let me know.
- I’m realizing that for someone who is practicing nonviolent protest, I know far too little about Martin Luther King, Jr. I need to begin remedying this by reading some of his speeches and other writings.
Any other suggestions of actions to take are greatly appreciated!
And to end, I just want to say that I’ve never been prouder of Boston. Look, here’s the mayor: