I’m thrilled at the turnout for yesterday’s (January 21, 2017) protest marches, I truly am.
I think that size as well as the diversity of locations around the planet exceeded all expectations. It was a welcome message at a time when I believe we are in serious need of hope.
But it leaves me hanging, with a question.
I have mixed emotions when it comes to protests in general; I’m not generally a fan. The problem is that most are ultimately ineffectual. Occasionally they do more harm than good, particularly when hijacked by looters and anarchists.
To be clear I don’t think yesterday’s march falls into the later category at all, but it really remains to be seen whether or not it’ll have lasting impact.
Protest marches don’t actually cause change. They may “send a message” (whatever that means), but very often any message is simply ignored or twisted to some other purpose. I think that there’s a high probability of that happening here.
The result is that the days after a protest often look identical to the days leading up to it; little will have changed.
With one exception: everyone who participated feels like they did something.
And, to be clear, they absolutely did. But by itself, that’s not enough. Protests are ineffective unless they’re the start of something larger. In order to have the desired outcome something more has to happen.
It’s not enough to participate in a march and then go home and think you’re done. You’re not. It’s not enough to get out on the street with your friends when it’s easy(*) or the popular thing to do within your peer group.
What happens next matters as much or even more.
What will you change, what will you say, what will you do to make your protest be something that results in lasting change?
(*) I know it wasn’t easy for all, but it was for many, particularly when it’s as much a social event as it is a political statement.