I hear a lot in the news and on social media about how many demonstrations we are seeing these days. Women marching, LGBT marching, Black Lives marching—it seems that everyone is marching. I am not.
I did my marching in the 1960s and 1970s. We were young, idealistic, convinced of our own infallibility, and by God, we were going to change the world. There was only one problem: the world wasn't listening. Actually, the world did listen; it just didn't care.
We had real problems back then: Civil rights, the war in Vietnam, corrupt political systems, fascist police, and most important of all, cheap and widely available drugs. In fact, given the amount of available drugs, I'm surprised that anyone was able to get out of the house to protest.
While there's no doubt that many of the protesters back then were serious-minded individuals who actually believed they could change the world, most of us just wanted to go someplace where we could meet girls. What better place to meet a girl than at a march to end the war? We even encouraged them to burn their bras! Now before you get all bent out of shape and accuse me of being a sexist pig, please remember that I was only twenty years old for crying out loud. Other than getting something to eat, finding a willing girl was the thought in our minds. Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? This was our foremost rallying cry promptly followed by hey, see that girl over there in the tie dyed t-shirt? Yup, political protests are important, but the biological need to procreate overrides everything.
I was in a lot of demonstrations in Boston back in the early 70s, and I don't remember a lot of destruction. Sure, there were some overturned garbage cans and a lot of litter, but we were generally peaceful, and looting just wasn't our thing, man. We wanted peace, love, and harmony. Of course those dreamy, hippy things were thrown asunder by the Democratic Convention in Chicago (how come it wasn't the Republicans?) and by the shootings at Kent State in 1970. That was when protesting went from a fun time to something deadly serious.
JFK, MLK, and RFK were assassinated. I remember it all like it was yesterday, and I was dramatically affected by each one of those shootings. Man, were there some protests then. These women marching today have a lot to learn. Thousands of us joined the Students for a Democratic Society, and the real crazies joined the Weathermen. The Black Panther Party was holding sway in LA, and Eldridge Cleaver wrote a book, Soul on Ice, that was a touchstone for me and many like me. These were our calls to action.
Peaceful protest wasn't working. The war was still on, the pigs were still in control, and even our peaceful hippy nation was disintegrating, due to Altamont and other violent events. (Note to self: don't hire the Hell's Angels as security guards). Slowly, we started to realize that Woodstock was a one-time thing, never to happen again. Drugs faded out, women started wearing bras again, and my generation began the onerous task of growing up.
And so I watch the marches today with a bemused smile on my face. I know it's not going to work. I've been there and I've done that. Fact is, it didn't change much of anything. If you really want to change things, you must listen to Teddy Roosevelt, who said,
“If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
And so, my fellow Americans, march on, march on. Protesting is good, and it's every American's right—no, it's every American's duty—to stand up for what you believe. But if you really, really want to change things, you need to cause the people who can change things enough pain to negate the pleasure they derive from not changing things. You do that by putting pressure where it will be felt the most. Two things really: follow the money and vote. Politicians can only survive with campaign funds. Contribute to the ones you support and find where the other guys are getting their money from. There just might be some leverage there that you can use.
Finally, vote. Just that – vote. Get your family, friends and neighbors to vote as well. Don't for a minute believe that your vote doesn't count, it does. Just like one ant isn't much of anything, put a bunch of them together and they can literally move a mountain. Then, when you've done everything you can to get as many votes as possible for your candidate, and you lose, be gracious. Maybe it's just that 50% plus one of the people who did vote don't agree with you. In our system, that means you lose. Get over it and work harder next time.
It's simple, really.