Politics is about balance. If you're anything like me, that means balancing your crippling anxiety about the state of civil liberties in the United States with your crushing cynicism about the odds of being able to do anything about it. While most of us are doing our civic duty by posting our opinions to Facebook, the way the Founding Fathers intended, some people are organizing a protest in Washington, D.C. It's a lot like a comment thread, except with fewer people just there to play devil's advocate. Though if you fly to D.C., book a hotel, and make up signs and chants just to play devil's advocate, then props to you.
The protest is the Women's March on Washington, taking place on January 21st, with sister protests all around the country. Despite my being a big ol libtard / feminazi / cuck / whatever the four young conservatives are calling us these days, I had a bit of an internal debate about going. Here's why.
Con: It Isn't Very Specific
The stated goal of the protest is to "send a message to all levels of government that we stand together in solidarity and we expect elected leaders to act to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities." I assume that the vast majority of people reading this are on board with that goal, or else are reading this through a steam-powered time portal. While there are certainly virtues to an inclusive, broad message like that, not having a more targeted message can make it harder to achieve tangible results. (Just look at Occupy Wall Street.) Without a more specific set of goals, there is the danger that all the energy being poured into this march will fizzle without affecting any material change.
Women's March On Washington
And more specific goals could be tricky to define, because the march is trying to include people with diverse interests and backgrounds. Plus, it's completely unclear what Donald Trump will actually do in office. He's made contradictory policy statements, and has gone back on being pro-choice for most of his adult life. So blocking any anti-women initiatives from Trump may be like shooting at a moving target a day before the target is even placed on the range.
Pro: There Are Specific Things To Protest
Though it isn't coming directly from Trump, activists were recently given a big old target to shoot at. The GOP is making a push to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Why they are doing this so close to an enormous demonstration by a diverse group of women's rights advocates is anybody's guess.
The moment when your enemies are fighting amongst themselves about what to name their campaign isn't typically the best time to unveil your half-built dreadnought. You couldn't pick a more perfect banner for the Women's March on Washington to rally around if you proposed a tampon tax to pay for the servers for r/MensRights.
Con: It's Expensive
When we're talking about the rights and safety of over 50 percent of the population, bringing up cost may sound like a dick move, but hear me out. I'm not proposing that I save my money for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park acted out completely by dogs in elaborate costumes ("Shakespeare in the Bark," copyright 2017, Aaron Kheifets). Currently, the cheapest flight from LAX to IAD is $800, and rooms on Airbnb are going for around $400 for the weekend (though some people have jacked up their rates 600 percent for the inauguration, to around a grand per night). You've got to weigh the value of your body physically being there against how much good $1,200 could do in the hands of a worthy cause. Maybe even one that might get defunded in the near future. But calculating the value of being there is tricky, because ...
Pro: Optics Are Important
The Million Man March was important. The "I Have A Dream" speech wouldn't have gotten nearly as much play if it had been given to just a few hundred or even a few thousand people. That shit was inspiring as hell, and continues to have an impact a generation later. Sure, it didn't convert KKK Grand Wizards, but it changed America for the better.
Again, if you're reading this through your steam-powered time portal, this moment is probably a confusing one to jump into. Try the 1950s.
It's difficult to quantify, but symbols matter. Barack Obama was at the Million Man March. How much did that contribute to him becoming president? Probably almost 0 percent. But becoming president is really fucking hard, so lay off. The point is that big events can inspire important people of the future. It's tough to say how likely that is, but it certainly is less likely if people like me stay home because they're too cynical.
Pro: "Sending A Message" Does Sometimes Yield Results
It might sound wishy-washy, but "sending a message" can actually kick politicians into action if the message is sent loudly enough. That's particularly true if the message is "This will cost you reelection." Like most people, an extremely high priority for politicians is not getting fired. Most of the time, they can accomplish very little and fool their bosses (us) into keeping them on anyhow, because their bosses have other fish to fry and there's usually not much reason to think the next candidate would be any better. But there are plenty of examples of people getting together enough calls/letters/emails/bodies yelling at them to change the course of a vote. We just saw this in action when republicans abandoned their plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Plus, "sending a message" is at the heart of The Indivisible Guide, a handy little manual to resisting Donald Trump's agenda created by a bunch of former congressional staffers. They're trying to stop regressive policies by taking some pages out of the Tea Party playbook.
The Indivisible Guide
Pro: It Is Doing Something
The main reason I'm going is that I'm not doing anything more effective that weekend. If the other option was volunteering to help victims of domestic violence (one in three women, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence) or sexual assault (one in six women, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), I might be whistling a different tune about going down to D.C. But realistically, that isn't what I would be doing with my weekend. I would be sewing tiny tunics for Lord dObermon and little Pugck.
Trashing a plan for not doing enough is fine, but only if you have a better alternative. Gloria Steinem thinks the march is a good idea, so I'm going unless a congressperson invites me over to talk gender equality instead. You do what you can, and at least this is something. If you've got better ideas, I'm all ears.
As an added bonus, if there's ever been a president who would really let a march get to him, it's D.J. Trump.
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