In Mexico, thousands gather to protest, accusing the government of covering up and/or aiding criminal elements in their society that kidnapped, and possibly killed, a class of high school students on a field trip.
In Hong Kong, young people fill the streets demanding the right to elect their own leaders, a promise of democracy that China’s capital of Beijing has failed to uphold.
And of course, in American cities everywhere, perhaps millions march in the streets to protest the frequent unjustified killing of unarmed black citizens in every corner of the country.
These three protests dominate the media these days, and it’s likely there are others in the world we haven’t heard about. It seems like the whole world is in protest. Millions of angry voices have gathered to make themselves heard, and they will not tolerate any dodging of the issue.
And in America, we’re “treated” to the almost daily sight of protestors being shot with beanbag bullets (that can knock an eye out) and hit with concussion grenades and teargas (teargas, of course, is a prohibited chemical weapon in international war). Oh yes, and multiple protestors have been shot and killed in the Ferguson riots, with some disturbingly close ties to the original victim Mike Brown.
It’s all a bit crazy, to be honest.
It’s true that protest and revolution are nothing new on this planet, and that in the past they’ve been much more violent (French Revolution, anyone?) Still, I don’t think it’s wise to discount current events, either. The protests are happening because people feel that their governments are doing a crap job of taking care of them, and they have a lot of data to back up their arguments. Whether they’re “right” or “wrong” is, of course, debatable as the very meanings of those two words.
Regardless, the protests certainly aren’t happening because these three governments are perfect, a fact driven home with every over-the-top display of violent force in the face of peaceful protest.
Some like to speak of these events as a sign that “the end is coming,” hinting at some impending revolution we can’t stop. It will be violent, they say, bloody and final, and when it ends we will have either a fully tyrannical government or some kind of utopia—probably the former.
I hope it doesn’t come to that. I think things can get better without coming to life-and-death struggle. Things have been getting better, slowly, year by year and decade by decade.
And the track record of improvement from violent revolution is shaky at best.
As for me, I take heart that the protests are happening at all. They have continued a long time, they are fervent, and they have attracted many. These are good things for democracy. A BETTER thing for democracy is when the government is faster about listening. Not to capitulate, but to work toward understanding and peace. There seems to be little progress on any of these fronts, even though the protestors are all fairly clear about what they want done (as opposed to, say, the nebulous OWS movement).
Compromise is a highly underrated commodity in what I see of today’s politics (which, admittedly, is not as extensive as it could be). And historically, governments have always seemed slow to respond to the urgent, immediate and pressing demands of their citizens, working for change (if they change at all) through the slow process of election and legislation.
Both of those tools are incredibly valid and valuable. But sometimes you need something faster.
When that doesn’t happen, and election and legislation fail for too long, that’s when people get angry and the bullets start to fly.
I genuinely believe we won’t get there. I certainly hope we don’t. My thoughts and my heart are out there with everyone who is braver than I am, who is committed fully to the cause, who is taking significant time off work and away from home to make some noise.
You are valuable, and I tip my hat to you.