These days there seems to be quite a lot to protest about, and quite a lot of people actually acting on their frustrations and taking to the streets. From the burgeoning civil war in Libya and the dramatic revolutions under way in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and on and on and on, to the labor struggles in America and the riots over economic injustice in England, there are clearly many different ways to redress grievances. A few decades ago in America, as people struggled for an end to the various social injustices plaguing their country, a debate also raged about the most effective approach to protest.

It boils down to “non-violent” or “violent”. That’s a major simplification but it speaks to the basics of the protest. I can understand how people can feel so hopeless and powerless that they see no choice but to resort to more extreme measures. While this may sometimes seem like the only option, in my opinion, it is rarely the best one or the most effective. Which is why I was so heartened to hear about the peaceful demonstrations underway in India. A week-long fast in protest against corruption in that country resulted in an amazing gathering of people from all walks.

My most recent personal experience in the protest department was last October when I traveled to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity. It’s a worthy goal to strive for in these frenzied times and I couldn’t wait to stand beside other sane people and show solidarity. I was so excited in fact, that my group and I tried to get as close as we could to the action, not really thinking through how difficult that would be in the confined space of the National Mall (who knew the mall could ever seem small!). The next thing we knew, we were completely surrounded, body to body with fellow rallyers. I can’t recall ever feeling more confined and helpless in a crowd as I did in that moment. We could see no clear space to walk toward. Everyone was trying to get somewhere or stay near someone. At any other rally it might have actually been a dangerous situation. The kind of thing where wild heads result in trampling, stampeding, and general mayhem with possible bodily harm. Fortunately this was the rally for sanity and it truly was the most respectful, mild-mannered mob you could ever hope to see. Everyone was sincerely polite, making every effort to accommodate each other, let groups stay in tact, keep voices at reasonable levels given the extreme proximity we were in. Initially I felt myself becoming slightly terrified as I noticed the crowd closing in around me, but the fear immediately gave way to wonder at the conduct I was witnessing around me.

Speaking out and standing up against tyranny wherever you find it is vital to a promising future for the human family. Don’t forget that the most important place to take a stand isn’t always somewhere distant, but right in your own home, in your own heart. Every decision, every day is a revolutionary act that creates the world you see around you. If you think something should be different, try changing yourself first. Then don’t be afraid to take it outside, stand up and be counted!

photo: human flower project
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