Not every day is a march but every day can be dissent
I’ll admit, I was amazed yesterday. Over one million women showed up in cities around the world to protest the policies and rhetoric of the 45th president of the United States. What quite literally started as the frustrated rant of a grandmother in Hawaii grew to the largest global protest ever.
The Women’s March on Washington proved a number of things. One is that women care a lot more about issues than old white men realized. Another was that women can show up in record-setting numbers and still be peaceful. Unlike protests on Friday that resulted in 230 arrests, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, Christopher Geldart said there were no arrests in relation to the Women’s March. Third, it proved that women are tireless when fired up. At 8:00 PM last night, long after the march was scheduled to end, there were still thousands of women marching, chanting, and waving their signs.
Most importantly, perhaps, yesterday’s protests proved that the single voice of dissent can make a tremendous difference. One might feel alone in their opinion at times, and there will always be someone who will try to tell you that you’re wrong, but when you speak up you might just find that millions of people around the world agree with you. Your voice and your opinion matters.
Now, the question is where do you go next? How do you continue your dissent in a manner that is both effective and appropriate? The energy from the Women’s March was terrific, but how does one keep that energy going when there is laundry to be done, meals to cook, pets to feed, chores to do, and a career to chase? The true effectiveness of the Women’s March on Washington is not in the number of people who attended, but in the change it produces going forward. Dissent cannot be a one-day matter; it must be continual and persistent or it does no good at all.
Fortunately, we live in a time where we don’t necessarily have to march every day to make our dissent known and for it to be effective. We just happen to have some ideas.
Join A Group Of Like Minds
If you didn’t read yesterday’s article, Do You Really Care? then please put it on your list of things to do today. If you have not downloaded Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, we strongly recommend doing so. Much of what I would put under this heading is covered in those two documents and I really don’t want to be overly redundant.
That being said, however, one of the most powerful forms of dissent is to organize. I’m not saying you have to be the leader. I’m not saying you have to have regular meetings. Having coffee with a couple of friends who feel the same as you can be effective, though. The power of being in a group, even if it’s small, is the support and encouragement and affirmation that comes from being with those who have the same concerns, share your worries, and are looking for their own voice. You help them, they help you, and the dissent grows stronger every time you get together.
The energy in the Women’s March on Washington is a good example how a group can be effective. Of those millions of people who marched, how many would have done the same thing if they knew they would be alone? Very few, I’m sure. A single protestor holding a sign doesn’t get much attention in D.C. A group, however, has the ability to make more of an impact. One person shared her rant with 40 people. Look what happened.
On a smaller scale, being part of a like-minded group gives you much of the same energy. Share what you’re doing as an act of dissent. Talk about the responses you get from members of Congress and others you encounter. Share your worries. Encourage your friends. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but revolutions grow out of a couple of people sitting around having coffee and a danish. Find someone. Get together.
Want to be part of something larger? Try the Women’s March 10 Actions for 100 Days.
Start A Dissent Blog
There are a lot of ways a person can speak up online, but a blog remains one of the most effective, even outside of social media. The reason is that social media is “in the moment.” People see what has been put there in the past two minutes, but have more difficulty finding material posted days, weeks, or months earlier. Blogs eliminate that problem. Blogging platforms do a great job of automatically indexing everything you create so that it’s there and retrievable at all times without too much fuss or bother.
Another great thing about blogs is that you don’t have to be a professional writer and you don’t have to attend to it every day. You can work your blog around your own schedule, in whatever manner you want, with content of your own choosing. There are no rules about what you can or cannot say or how you say it. Curse. Scream. Whisper. You formulate the voice you want to express and then set it out there for the world to see.
How do you get started? We strongly recommend wordpress.com for most people. WordPress is a powerful publishing platform used by large sites such as the New York Times and the brand new Obama Foundation. A lot can be done with WordPress if one knows what they’re doing. However, most people don’t have that knowledge and, quite honestly, don’t want to be bothered with the time and expense of operating a full website. WordPress.com solves that problem. You can create your own blog there, on their servers, with very little effort and no expertise. You can make it large, you can keep it small, it’s all up to you.
From there, it’s just a matter of letting people know you’ve created something. Social media is good for that. Share your article with your friends. In fact, I’ll make you a promise: tag me with your dissent blog posts and we’ll share them as well. As we share each other’s content, the dissent grows and becomes more public. The power of a single voice becomes stronger.
We can help you with this one. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Hold Politicians Accountable
Let’s get real for a brief minute here. Politicians have never been the most honest group of people in the world. Whether they’re American or Mexican or French or Gambian, lying is something they all do extremely well. Our memories tend to be short on these matters, but misinformation coming out of the White House is almost a tradition. What has changed is that we can no longer afford to brush aside those lies and exaggerations. We can’t let the president or anyone else in the administration get away with deliberate and intentional lies about what they’re doing or the facts surrounding an issue.
Holding politicians accountable is a very powerful form of dissent right now because it’s not something we’ve done on a large scale before. Sure, there have been organizations such as Snopes that have cropped up in recent years, but to the extent that they don’t force their information onto a politician or anyone else, they need people like you and me to help spread the word. There are plenty of other sources as well. The Associated Press regularly fact-checks major speeches, whether by the president or anyone else who is getting national attention. Major newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have huge archives with which they can check the accuracy of historical claims. The resources are there.
What has to happen, though, is that you and I have to be the ones to hold politicians feet to the fire both publicly and privately. Share fact-checking posts on social media. Confront your members of Congress with facts through email or letters. It is not enough that the information is being published, politicians need to know that you are paying attention. They count on the overload of information keeping you confused and uncertain of what they’re doing. One of the most powerful forms of dissent comes when you say, “Senator, I know you’re lying and I won’t tolerate it.”
Let ’em have it.
Use Social Media
Social media may be the most publicly accessible form of voicing one’s dissent there is. Generally free and open to everyone, the ways in which you can voice your dissent are innumerable. You can be as creative as you want, use almost any format you want, and address any issue you want. The world is open to hearing from you and the more unique you are in voicing your dissent the more powerful your voice can be.
There are, however, some caveats to this method. There are millions of people on social media, which means the volume of messages is heavy. There are a lot of things out there that don’t need to be repeated and are not deserving of the attention one has to be careful. Here are the guidelines we use for our own posts:
- Verify everything you can before sharing. We’ve gotten caught occasionally jumping the gun and posting something that wasn’t quite true. A couple of years ago, that was no big deal. Apologize, remove the post, and move on. Today, however, given the tremendous influx of fake and misleading news, we have to be ever diligent and double our efforts to make sure that what we share is accurate.
- Don’t be distracted by trolls. When you post something controversial or something that doesn’t sit well with some “friends,” comments are often made that start with phrases such as “Yeah, but what about …” or “That’s something a [derogatory name] would say,” in a deliberate attempt to diminish the impact of the post by pulling an argument away from the message. Don’t fall for it. When it happens, either delete the comment (you can do that) or block the person. Don’t take them on. Don’t argue with them. That’s what they want. Remove them and continue.
- Use hashtags when they’re appropriate. I’ll admit, when hashtags first started becoming a thing, I didn’t like them. They seemed stupid and unnecessary. What I’ve learned over the past few years, though, is that they actually do serve a purpose, especially when one is talking about something topical and trending. People are much more likely to see what you’ve posted if it contains an appropriate hashtag such as #SpicerFacts or #WomensMarch.
Another issue that is extremely important in social media is sharing. Each of us has a rather limited audience that is a fraction of the total number of friends or followers we might have on any given platform. When we share what each other has posted, we enlarge that audience and spread the message of dissent. The more we share, the broader the dissent becomes. Don’t be afraid. Share liberally and watch the dissent grow.
A quieter but still effective form of dissent can come in the visual elements you wear or place around you. Now, let’s be a tiny bit careful here. Your workplace may have rules regarding the display of anything that might be considered political or controversial. Check if you are not sure of your employer’s policies. However, that being said, to the extent you can do so without getting fired, wearing buttons and t-shirts, posting signs and stickers that voice your dissent are very powerful. You don’t have to say a word for people to know where you stand. The more people see such forms of dissent, the more likely they are to join in the dissent, making it all the more powerful.
I’m personally of the opinion that the strongest visuals are those you make yourself, but then, I have tools to make them look good. Not everyone has the time or motivation to create their own. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places across the Internet that sell buttons and stickers. Cafe Press probably gives you more choices across a number of different products, from buttons to stickers to t-shirts and more.
There’s also the option of purchasing bulk buttons and stickers and distributing them to like-minded people. My personal preference is for buttons simply because my experience has been that people tend to put stickers in places where they’re not wanted and the stickers are difficult to remove. Buttons can be transferred from one piece of clothing to another and generally don’t tend to violate as many corporate dress policies.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Extreme
To what extent you take your dissent may well depend on your lifestyle. Not everyone can be extreme in their dissent, but those who can shouldn’t be afraid to do so. I’ve already seen a couple of tattoos and at least one person has had “resist” cut into their hair on the side. Things such as car wraps are a little expensive for most of us, but are still an extreme form of dissent that is definitely going to get noticed (and make cause your insurance rates to go up).
Extreme can also come in the groups which one chooses to support. From Planned Parenthood to the ACLU to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are dozens of major organizations that are providing a voice of dissent. Each of these non-profits rely on donations. While they are happy to accept even the smallest amounts, an extreme donation from those who can reasonably do so can make a tremendous difference in voicing your dissent. Yes, it can be a bit scary, but it is worth it.
And Finally …
Don’t be afraid to inject some humor into your dissent. There’s plenty to be had and the effect of humor on dissent can be extremely powerful. Here are some examples we pulled from the #SpicerFacts stream on Twitter.
Guess the number of jelly beans.
— Mark Zohar (@markzohar) January 22, 2017
— Keep2020Alive (@Keep2020Alive) January 22, 2017
Trump University won the Rose Bowl 25 times in the last 25 years. Period. #SpicerFacts
— Tricia Miller Hewson (@iambonafide) January 22, 2017
— imfabulous (@imfabulous13) January 22, 2017
— DG Curry (@DGCanuck) January 21, 2017
See? We can have fun and still make our point loud and clear.
How you design your dissent, the means and the methods which work best for you, is totally subjective. There are numerous options and choosing what is going to be effective depends largely on your lifestyle and level of comfort and passion. What’s most important is that we not let up in making our voice heard. Now. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Every time someone in this administration and this Congress attempts to infringe on someone’s rights, to deny equality to any group, to implement policies that are not in the best interest of the American people, we have to be there, loud and strong in our dissent.
We are just getting started. Together, we can resist.