‘Protest’ is not a bad word

Mar 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Commentary, Opinions

by Heather Welborn

Do you know what a protest is? If you were asleep in your grade school history classes, protesting is that little addition to our Constitution that makes it legal to peacefully and publicly disagree.

If this is review for you, why haven’t you taken action? You’re a college student! Surely there must be something you disagree with. Every new generation’s youth is bound to get riled up to the point of mass public assembly.

What is it that pushes your buttons? Bummed out bud’s not legal? Feel the failure of Prop 8 is blatant integration of church and state? There’s lots to choose from, and unless you’re in a coma (be it clinical, technical or medical), something irks you, and it’s time to take action!

Sadly, most of us shrug off our chosen sentiments at this stage, and Springfield streets, full of potential for activism, are viewed routinely, and with the same bland indifference.

What is the source of this protest-procrastination, this inability to take action? I provide the reason— reality —in three parts.

First, many college kids don’t think protesting is necessary. Others doubt the effectiveness of suggesting change at all. There hangs a cynical haze over us, a cloud ever-murmuring “there’s nothing we can do.”

To them I say, shout louder! Protest gives us citizens the perfect opportunity to usher in change. Consider the civil rights movement of the 1960s – if protest worked to change the law then, why then is it absent now, when the law makes many angrier than I’ve ever seen any hippie get?

Another factor in our inactivity is the fear of backlash. I’ve overheard students planning to attend a tea party rally, nervously speculating the legality of holding a sign in a public place. As they worked themselves into a theoretical frenzy of canines and cop cars, I again think back to my history lessons of women suffragettes being beaten, political radicals starving in prison, rock stars and presidents (pretty much all our good orators) murdered and wonder why they did it. I like to think it was because they couldn’t help but stand up for what was important to them. Have 50 years changed this?

The final source for the lack of protest is the fear of being labeled an extremist. The words “protestor” and “radical” are not synonyms, yet a relationship persists between the two. The horrendously cruel actions of sickos like Osama Bin Laden on 9/11 and more recently Joe Stacks from last month suggest ramming a plane into a building makes a bigger statement than a peace rally does. It is our duty to actively disagree, to model the life of a true American revolutionary — in dedication of ongoing service to a cause.

Protest is not a dirty word! Our country was bred and fed on internal protest. It is our civil responsibility not only to stay informed on what affects us, but to act accordingly to keep the laws and legal practices that govern us in sync with the times. American law is not etched into stone. We would do well, as socially sensitive beings, to recognize this, and dare to not just question out government, but to demand our voice be heard.

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