There’s a handful of sayings that make me want to jam a pencil in my ear every hear them. It’s not that they are acoustically offensive, I have six kids that have made me pretty well tone deaf to auditory assailments. These sayings usually have some sort of logical incongruity or cognitive dissonance that makes me want to puke. For instance, when someone begins a statement with ‘FYI’ it’s physically challenging for me to not blurt out ‘just out of curiosity - are you ever planning on telling me something that is NOT for my information? Will there come a time when you’re going to tell me something in the hopes that I immediately forget it?’
I have a similar, but far less petty, hang up with the chant of many of today’s protestors. Every time I hear ‘This is what democracy looks like!!’ I want to start a chant in response of ‘I believe you are mistaken because this is in fact not what democracy looks like!’
So far, I have been unsuccessful in getting traction on that particular mantra. I’m not sure why…
I know it sounds like nit picking, but it’s important to everyone during this caustic time to make sure we understand terms and concepts with precision. A protest is NOT what democracy looks like.
What people are doing is not part of the process of democratically electing or choosing. You’ll notice a distinct lack of ballots and number two pencils at a protest. There are no booths. There are no counts or polls or any of the other things that do mark the outward characteristics of democracy. This by no means diminishes the importance of protests. Not at all! In fact, a protest is a visible manifestation of the one construct that rivals democracy in importance. Liberty. This is what LIBERTY looks like!
I admit I haven’t gotten that one to catch on either…
Taking advantage of the liberty of protesting is as important as taking advantage of voting because it is exercising a right guaranteed in the constitution. This is what it looks like to live in a country where you get rage against that which is in opposition to your belief without fear of government retribution. It’s what it looks like to make your voice heard in the streets and in the media without censorship of a government. It’s what it looks like to live in a country where no one gets to tell you what to think, say or do. But, it’s not what democracy looks like.
Everyone protesting and supporting the protests need to understand the difference. It’s important for us not connect protesting with democracy because democracy is in place to PREVENT loud, raucous crowds from putting people or policies in place because of their passion. We don’t set policy based on protests and marches because, well, forcible suppression of opposing beliefs by impassioned speech and social and economic pressures as a way to put people in power or make decisions isn’t just NOT what democracy looks like. That IS what fascism looks like; and nobody wants to be a fascist. That’s soooo 20th century.
However, allow me to speak to any who oppose any of the recent protests. If you think that any of those protesting should ‘suck it up’ or ‘quit whining because the election was fair and square’ I encourage you to purchase two hardback copies of the biggest, heaviest dictionaries you can find. The first you should give to someone chanting ’This is what democracy looks like’ so they can learn the actual difference between democracy and liberty. And then, you should take the other one and beat yourself unconscious with it; because you apparently DO know the difference between the terms and are just too much of an jerkface to correctly apply them.
Liberties cut both ways for an important reason. Exercising constitutional rights is what keeps people from internalizing their dissatisfaction with their country in an unhealthy way. To discourage protestors is to encourage the feelings of imprisonment and suppression of thought. It is to build millions of tiny, personal prisons in which people suffer without a voice until, one day, there comes the prison break. The best safeguard against catastrophic divides or unprecedented revolution is to honor the liberty to speak out without fear or intimidation. After all, this question of liberty is the center of our own revolution at the beginning of our history. ‘Taxation without representation’ is nothing more than a cry for a voice and input from the governed who did not have rights to exercise. Let’s not repeat that particular chapter of history, M’kay?
So I say to the dissolution out there - put on a pussy hat, pick up a sign and exercise your liberties with everything you’ve got. There’s literally nothing more American you can do (except maybe to shoot a redcoat with a musket, but they’re both pretty hard to find these days). You may just impact the next democratic election by reminding us all what, in fact, LIBERTY looks like and how democracy protects it.
And to all of those who find themselves on the winning team or in opposition to any protest - celebrate. If you don’t resonate with the protestors message then clearly you do not suffer from the angst they have. You should be happy about that! You are exercising YOUR liberty to pursue happiness and if you have nothing to protest, you’re probably doing a good job of it. Just don’t dismiss those who do march as they exercise their rights.
Liberties - they cut both ways.