What If I'm Not The Protesting Type?
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I met up at Claudette, a cute little French restaurant just outside of Washington Square Park. As we were flipping through the menu making our drink selections, a middle-aged woman and her elderly mother sat down next to us. For a while, we each went out about our individual dinners peacefully. But then, I heard the middle-aged woman bring up Trump. His name cut through the idle chatter and the clanking of silverware on plates like a knife. We made eye contact, and for the rest of the meal, it was destined that the four of us would dine together.
She, a 50-year-old psychoanalyst who lived in Alphabet City for two decades, compared the then-proposed (now active) Muslim ban to the era of Nazi Germany. Her mother, who was at least 80, said the Trump presidency was one of the worst things she’d ever seen.
The psychoanalyst was also gravely concerned about women’s rights, and rightfully so. She turned to the other women in the restaurant multiple times and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Aren’t you scared?! Don’t you want to protect your reproductive rights?!” She then yelled this to the bartender and to the waiters passing by. She was fearless. A bit unhinged. But I loved how bold she was.
It turns out she was the creator behind a protest group called Dear Ivanka. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, they were planning to protest in front of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. They’d each be carrying boxes, labeled with the rights they felt they’d be losing during Trump’s presidency. Dear Ivanka was a human letter to the First Daughter. “Dear Ivanka, your father is taking away my right to love, my right to live free of discrimination, my right to my body, etc.”
She pressured us to join the protest. We both smiled politely and listened; led her to believe we’d be there on Monday. But neither of us ever had any intention of attending that protest. Protests just aren’t my thing.
"As a writer, it's my work that sends my message loud and clear-not my body. Not my sign. Not my chant. Not my physical disruption."
As a writer, it's my work that sends my message loud and clear-not my body. Not my sign. Not my chant. Not my physical disruption.
However, I have all the respect in the world for those who do choose to protest. It's our First Amendment right and for many, it's the only tool they have to speak up and actually be heard. We all know that letters to our local representatives go unanswered, and surely, letters to the Trump White House will be fed into shredders labeled “Liberal Tears”. Protesting makes people pay attention. It always has, and it always will.
But for me, a mildly extroverted introvert that dreads the idea of being around thousands of angry people with no bathroom, no warmth and no end in sight--it's psychological warfare. I can’t possibly hone in on communicating a powerful message if the very act of participating threatens my sanity.
In 2001, I published my very first piece in the Pensacola News Journal—an op-ed in which I outlined my hopes for George W. Bush's presidency. I wanted him to improve education and keep us safe at school-two things he did not deliver on. However, the editorial was seen by more people then than any one of my Facebook posts are seen today. That was my protest. I was an early rabble rouser with a rather peaceful way of forcing my thoughts on people. That essay got me a job at The Navarre Press-a local upstart newspaper that's now defunct. There, I got my own political news column where I covered the minutiae of Florida government weekly. I was acutely aware of what was happening with the government then, and I still am now.
I can be more effective sprinkling liberalism into every article I write for myself and for my clients. With everything I do, I'm showing how a black, queer person can make a difference, do something positive and have another view of the world. I'm sending dozens of messages of tolerance out into the world each week.
In January alone, I've written about how the black community needs to open up its arms to its LGBTQ members, how those with a platform have a responsibility to speak up and the role that comedy plays in politics. And that’s just a sampling.
Don't interpret my newsfeed silence as nonchalance. I'm taking it all in and thinking about how I can make a lasting impact. A Facebook rant might gain likes for 24 hours, but an eye-opening work of literature will be here for years to come. That takes time to create. That sort of power takes time to harness. So, if I'm not sharing every single video about Congress or every article about Trump or marching in every protest, it doesn't mean I'm sitting on the sidelines. I'm just doing things a different way.
"A Facebook rant might gain likes for 24 hours, but an eye-opening work of literature will be here for years to come."
There seems to be this implication on social media that we aren't allowed to be multifaceted people. That we can't possibly care about the Muslim ban if we're not tweeting about it. That we're unaware of what's going on in our country if we can find the time to have a drink or see a movie when others are screaming their hearts out on the steps of a Brooklyn courthouse. That we're insensitive if we share anything that isn't political. That we can't possibly care about the Oscar nominations and the threat of a 20% tariff on Mexican imports at the same time.
We are all capable of juggling different interests, concerns and responsibilities simultaneously. An interest in one doesn't cancel out the other. Furthermore, we all fight differently. Protesting isn’t a bandwagon to jump on. It isn’t some scene to hang out at because everyone else is doing it. It can have serious implications for those involved and its gravity needs to be considered. When we look back at this era and ask each other what side of history we were on, I don’t think the question will literally mean ‘where were your feet planted?’.
I'm gay, black and married to a Mexican. I worry about how this administration will affect my future in this country every single day. I just choose to deal with those feelings differently than others. It doesn't make me oblivious. It doesn't make me inactive. It just makes me different. And those who can't understand that are part of the problem, too.