Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,23 July 2013

The Snap

Watch the news any night and odds are you’ll see protests somewhere. Odds are also that you’ll be one of the few people still watching the news but that’s beside the point. The point is that we the people consistently seem to find things wrong with our governmental and societal institutions. Whether it’s Cairo, Istanbul, Oakland, Houston, Rio, Raleigh or Guangdong; on any given day, a metric buttload of people are mad as heck and aren’t going to take it anymore!

The Download

Full disclosure: I should hand in my pinko liberal hippie card because I’ve only participated in 2 on-the-ground protests. The first was in support of returning Haitian President Aristide to power and the second was against Pat Buchanan coming to speak at my college.

It’s not that I lost that revolutionary feeling.  It’s that I get panicky and claustrophobic in crowds. So no matter that Jay Z and Beyoncé joined the ranks of demonstrators in New York, I’ll still be sitting at home, strong in my convictions but unsure of how to best express them.

All these protests raise two questions for me: what do they say about the public’s trust in its institutions and what do protests accomplish other than wrecking rush hour? The first seems deceptively easy to answer. Public trust in the U.S. Congress is at its lowest and Wall Street is seen as the enemy — just to name a few. But is public faith in leadership really at historic lows, or does it just seem that way because now we see videos of protesters on our mobile devices while commuting on the train, exercising or pretty much doing anything?

Posing the second question makes me feel even more cynical. When encountering Occupy protestors, I was sort of meh. They didn’t seem to have common goals or plans. But maybe that wasn’t the point. They got people talking in a way we hadn’t been before. They raised the level of public and political debate. And that’s what a good demonstration does: it makes you question the status quo.

In terms of more definitive change, I think political action may yield better results; fielding candidates, campaigning for them and for God’s sake VOTING can bring about more change than setting up a tent in a park, refusing to shower and keeping poster board manufacturers in business. When I see protesters in a democratic society I wonder how many voted in their last elections, how many can identify their representatives and how many have communicated their priorities and needs to their reps. That’s not to say that sometimes it isn’t better to have a throng of people on the steps of the Capitol. It’s just that if you do that and still sit at home on the day that men and women fought and died to give you the right to vote, I’m gonna call shenanigans.


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Hat Tips:

Washington PostCNNABCWall Street JournalReutersHuffington Post, Image Credit: Flickr

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