Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Another Protest Song

The other day a friend asked me if I knew about any protests against the Republican National Convention while it is in town this September. I'm sure there will be, but I don't know of any. Maybe I'm jaded, maybe I've become too cynical, but these days protests seem kind of pointless: a bunch of folks who agree with one another walking around agreeing with each other. No one else listens or even cares, and I am certain that they do not raise awareness like they once did. They have become a big echo chamber where like-minded people convene to hear themselves speak.

Every time I've been to a march or a protest, I have felt that the energy was false; I have never felt real passion or conviction in the midst of such events. These crowds belch forth narcissistic indignation that says nothing so much as "we are cool because we are fighting the man," or "look at us old hippies, we changed the world by protesting." News flash: no you aren't and no you didn't.

The friend conceded my point, but explained that he has been feeling the need to do something, anything to feel like he is making a difference. He lamented he has little to show for his foray into participatory democracy (voting, caucusing, being a delegate, writing congressmen, etc.), and that Minnesota isn't the progressive place that it once was.

I'm sympathetic to his cry: what can an ordinary person do to affect change in the corridors of power? Year after year, polls tell me that Americans want progressive health care reform, a fair tax structure, a better education for their children. Why doesn't this ever happen? I've been told that "doing all you can" gives one a sense of peace and satisfaction. But for my friend, and for me, that is no comfort.

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