It was so beautiful to see.
I feared that in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s dark victory over Hillary Clinton, those who were horrified by the bombast and buffoonery of the bigoted billionaire would sustain an emotional blow from which they would never recover. The psychological impact of the words “President Donald Trump” would be too sudden, too savage, too sickening. I feared that the outcome of the 2016 presidential election would drive too many to the brink of despair.
The protests gave me hope. The sight of so many Americans taking to the streets to declare that they would never surrender or yield to the radical agenda of the President-elect was the most inspiring thing I’ve seen in years–even more inspiring than the sight of Barack Obama’s supporters in Grant Park in Chicago on November 4, 2008. No, I do not condone the incidents of violence that have reportedly occurred at a few of these protests. No rational person does. However, the vast majority of these demonstrators are peaceful, hopeful, thoughtful.
This is, on the whole, a protest of love. The folks standing up to the bigotry of Donald Trump are, in their own way, making America great again.
Protest is as American as apple pie. Never forget that. When I joined 400,000 proud and brave Americans two years ago at the People’s Climate March in New York City, I was motivated by the same spirit that motivates these protesters–a sense that a massive injustice had been inflicted upon the innocent by the powerful, a sense that wrongs had to be righted, a sense that the status quo just had to go.
These protesters have been scorned by the usual suspects. The forces of repression say the same stuff every time: those who raise their voices against prejudice, pollution and the perversity of the powerful are always called anarchists, whiners, crackpots, moonbats. There’s another, far more accurate word for them:
Those who are protesting the demagoguery of the Donald remember what it was like to stand up to George W. Bush and his wars of choice a decade ago. They remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks, to Sean Penn, to Michael Moore, to the millions of less famous Americans who asked why we were invading a country that posed no threat to us. Think about how much courage it must take for these brave men and women to hit the streets in protest, knowing that, like the anti-Iraq War activists, they will be demonized by the massive right-wing media infrastructure in this country.
These protests may be the only thing keeping the American Dream alive. Think of how many African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, and marginalized individuals of every color and creed feared for their lives once it became obvious that this bitter bigot would become their leader. The sight of so many Americans taking to the streets to resist Trump’s agenda gives them the hope they will need to make it through these dark years.
These protests are invigorating, a call to action on behalf of justice and mercy and equality and decency. Most of the folks complaining about these protesters never bothered to condemn Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia and appeals to the lowest possible common denominator. Their complaints can be dismissed on the grounds of intellectual dishonesty.
Protest is a powerful thing; it can change hearts, minds, the very course of history. If I didn’t believe so, I wouldn’t have joined the People’s Climate March. If they didn’t believe so, they wouldn’t be taking to the streets.