New Orleans The world is a dangerous place. War and the rumors of war fill the daily papers even in these days of our presumed advanced and enlightened civilization Ironically, the Age of Trump is such that some Americans are being warned not to think this is the beginning of the end times. Huh? This must be the point where hyperbole and humor have replaced every shred of reason. There are few examples that are so stark about how our perspective has become narcissistic when we can’t measure how lucky we are compared to so many elsewhere in the world.
Take something as simple as the right to protest for example. The Poor Peoples’ Campaign, 2018 edition, as we discussed recently, is recruiting people and in the same breath asking people to check a box on their website whether they are ready to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested to bring home the point of the protest.
Trump may have lost control of his Twitter finger already. The Justice Department clearly wants to turn back the clock a generation, if not a couple of hundred years. The EPA, the DOL, and other departments have clearly lost their bearings, and in many cases are unmoored from their legislatively mandated missions. Nonetheless, no one losses any sleep wondering if they check the box saying they are ready to spend a few hours in the clinker and call it civil disobedience, that they will be gone a life time or risk life and limb.
Yet, bloggers are going to jail in Morocco – and China – for eight years and more for exposing corruption, which would hardly seem revolutionary and a threat to law and order in either country. And, blogging is hardly protest, right? I’m typing away this minute and my only concern is the fact that my kitchen table imploded today, spilling coffee on my computer, so I’m trying to navigate a borrowed keyboard. A little frustration is different from existential fear.
Meanwhile a dozen protesters were killed in the Congo for the speaking out about the impunity of the country’s president having refused to call elections for over a year when his final term ended December 26, 2016 after 17 years in power. The government shutdown the internet and texting services for 48 hours as part of their crackdown. Several protesters were also killed in Iran in demonstrations over the mismanagement of the economy and the reaction to sanctions that are still oppressive in the country. The government blamed foreign powers, which means the United States usually, but the protesters paid the price with their lives.
I could go on and on with examples from around the world of popular protest and government crackdowns on protest, the press, the internet, and many other aspects of daily life and entitlements that we feel are inalienable on one hand and take completely for granted on the other.
Yet, we miss the irony. We can do so much more without fear of retaliation or harm, yet so many hesitate and still call this resistance.
Protest does of course have a price as others prove daily and pay for dearly. Our ante is so small that we should be willing to pay the pittance it costs without hesitation or delay.