The desire to write this blogpost was borne from a strong reaction to the Berkley protests against the scheduled appearance of Breibart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. The protests included violence and all that could be seen by those on the right was the fulfillment of the stereotype many conservatives have of nonconservatives. That stereotype is one of decadence and the desire to control others. Acting out in ways that support that stereotype only hardens the hearts of conservatives. In addition, it is simply morally wrong to act violently and destroy property.
Nevertheless, there is much to protest against now that the Republicans have full control of Congress and the Presidency. This only provides job security for many of us activists, and that is true even for those of us who protest for free. Here we should note that not only are there right and wrong ways to protest, there are effective and ineffective ways to protest. A First Things article tried to point that out by saying that the right way to protest is to sponsor events where issues can be discussed or to volunteer where a need has been created by wrong policies (click here for the article). The trouble with this article isn't in what it is suggesting, but it is in giving an unnecessary exclusive-or choice between traditional activism and what was suggested by the article. BTW, we should note that the article made a big deal about the profanity of the signs in the Women's March without noting that profanity-laced signs were in the minority at th9se protests. Plus, why should nonconservatives cater to the language sensitivities of conservatives at nonconservative protests?
The two protests that could provide a model for us to follow was the Women's March, because how peaceful it was, and Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes. Not many thought of her monologue as a protest, but it was. It was an actress, we should note that artists are the first secular prophets who can tell us what is wrong with society, using her opportunity to give an acceptance speech to speak out against an injustice she witnessed. Her speech was eloquent, restrained and thus free of hyperbole.
But most of all, the conservative reaction to her speaking out became an admission of guilt. For while Streep was careful to say that candidate Trump had imitated a disabled person, conservatives, including Trump, responded by denying that he had mocked the reporter. Again, she only said he had imitated the reporter. And the videos of his responding to that reporter show that to be the case.
It is very easy for people in their respective groups to scapegoat all other groups for the problems we have in America. As a result, tribalism more than conservative control of the government has become the biggest threat to our democracy. When groups scapegoat others or when they become violent and destructive, all they are demonstrating is that they want to seize power and control. But this competition for power and control results in an eternal king-of-the-hill battle. Such battle can only ensure that only some people rule in our democracy, not all. And that right there signals the end of democracy.
Noting that tribalism is our biggest enemy, we need to construct our protests in ways that do not trigger tribal responses.