It seems that every other week a new national protest is broadcast across the news; protests like the women’s march and march for our lives.
Each month there are more protests with more people, but policies don’t seem to be evolving with them. The amount of people who show opposition to the government does not seem proportional to the amount of legislation being changed.
I am on the more liberal side of things with my opinions about climate change and social justice. I go to a liberal school where it is almost commonplace for people to announce a protest that we should attend, or when and where a rally will be. I would (for the most part) agree with the cause, but like many others, I wouldn’t go to the protest. It’s partly because it feels like it’s enough to just support them, but I am used to hearing about protests that are too far away to support. I am used to just doing that. It is also because it feels like recently nothing has actually changed.
After hearing about so many protests being ignored, you start to wonder, what are we doing wrong?
First, we need to understand
What Protests Made A Difference?
The point of a protest is to change the status quo, by demonstrating strength in numbers, determination, and sometimes a willingness to disrupt society. Protests trigger discussions and bring attention to causes people find worth fighting for and have proved themselves a valid strategy multiple times throughout American History.
The Progressive Era
Civil Rights Movement
Each of these movements was characterized by strong leaders who carried them from the local to national levels.
This all seems very different compared to the
Occupy Wall Street
Black Lives Matter
All these movements have had varying success rates and all have one thing in common; social media.
The Rise of Technology
Through social media, news spreads fast. It only takes seconds to spread the word. This gives movement lots of recognition. People group and protests expand exponentially faster and in much larger numbers. It only takes one post, and few minutes, to plan and then only weeks to act on it. The coverage these protests get is far more wide-reaching, and the support it gets is from across the nation. With easy access, people can share their ideas, and everyone has equal potential for space in the limelight (Tierney).
While technology and social media help in some areas, ironically it is harmful in the exact same way.
Are there aspects of the past that are being overlooked?
“Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” -Ron Swanson (Parks and Rec)
Today can be seen as the new progressive era, multiple issues being confronted from the new gilded age (Clark). We have plenty of things to complain about, but what we’re lacking is a strong leader who can rally people to solve one problem at a time. Social media has allowed peoples attention to be divided and they are being concurred. There is no dedication to one cause, but it is hard to be dedicated when you see all the things you want to fight for affecting people daily (DeRoo). But something must be prioritized, bureaucracy is slow, and the government is splintered into many parts. It can really only cause nationwide change one thing at a time. The whole country needs to lead to help them pick which thing comes first. In the past, it was the poor and working class people were given protection, then women getting the right to vote, then the ending of racial segregation, and then the legalization of same-sex marriage. It doesn’t matter if the cause is gaining support alongside another, the process of legalizing, implementing, or changing something can only handle one at a time (Staehly).
But things may be changing. Right now anti-Trumpism seems to be a central focus. In addition, the highly motivated, articulate survivors of the Parkland shooting appear to be providing social media savvy leadership. They are becoming recognizable and memorable figures at a time when few of us can recall any names or faces associated with BLM, OWS or most of the other movements. If the support for this cause continues unwavering, permanent change might be a real possibility. As dire as the other causes may seem, the public has chosen this one and it’s too late to back out. If none of this is successful, and another national debate is started to be careful about how you decide to act. It is hard to try and focus on one problem when there are so many, but right now it seems like too many focuses are what is hindering change. Delete your Facebook or at least be skeptical about what you read on it. Do your own research. Prioritize your own causes. Protest selectively. Know how far you really need to go for your cause. And above all, vote.
Protesting is an endurance run, not a sprint. Unfortunately, weekly fads and instant gratification are exactly how the internet works; and the number of people who are following the headline can only compensate for that so much. In the past, people were forced to start from the bottom; plan out their movement, gain followers locally, and truly dedicate themselves to the cause. It took time and effort to make a change. All that time was time spent planning, developing leaders, finding dedicated followers, and communicating their goal. The time spent working at city and state level is almost like a test run, work out the kinks, finalize your message and plan, learn what works and what doesn’t, who has power and who doesn’t. When the cause spreads, there will already be a foundation of solid supporters, even if you didn’t make a national change, state or city changes are still an accomplishment (Kutateli). These days, people will gather but because there was limited communication and planning, there is nothing for them to do next and they leave. Many peoples support is limited to comments on a website or social media or even as little as a “like”(DeRoo). Without something to follow, be it a person or a plan, people will lose interest and until the next disaster comes and renews their fervor. Change won’t happen if, for every step you take you have to wait for something horrible to inspire you to do something, the action has to be one step ahead. People need to be devoted to a cause to keep that interest, to keep pressing for change (Reynolds).
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