Protests don’t work anymore. Not rallies, not marches, not shouting and singing and sign waving. Why? It’s too easy to stop listening. We’re immune. It’s too ordinary and expected and commonplace. We can always change the channel.
Protests fail because there’s no dialogue. No conversation. No opening. Even people who were against war avoided the war protests we had in 2002, because it was self-indulgent and irrelevant and a rehash of something that worked in another era. Not now, when we can all move along elsewhere, because we’ve already heard the message and made up our minds.
I think the only thing that can work now is real conversation. About what I want and what you want and why we aren’t getting it. Partisan blathering is poisonous, it closes the ears of anyone who doesn’t already agree with that side. We don’t suffer from a lack of opinions, and I think the problem for anyone who doesn’t like the way things are going is trickier than just learning to yell louder. Personal politics are identities, and thus entrenched against the shouts of outsiders.
The news media fails here, fails to offer another kind of discussion. So much journalism is “Mr. X says this and Mr. Y says he’s wrong”, and it’s often the most critical issues that are handled this way. What we need is not only claim A and claim B, but each side’s rationale, who funds them, and what biases they may have from other personal and financial connections. Any external data is helpful, too, if it can provide context or a larger picture or specific details and outcomes. And we need real, concrete, human stories. Not exaggerated ones, no schmaltz. Writing that represents what’s happening to different people, in our country and around the world, and attempts to understand why. Because I think ultimately what we need to address can be stated as an inversion of the feminist phrase: The political is personal.