Whether we look to “black lives matter” protesters or the kayaktivists currently floating around the Port of Seattle, we see people so stirred by injustice and the threats to their way of life that they are willing to confront the most powerful institutions in order to bring their vision of a better world into being. I believe these folks should be commended for acting on their politics when so many of us just talk about them.
The greatest accomplishments in U.S. history, from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage, have all relied upon a diversity of tactics ranging from the ballot box and newspaper editorial to protest and direct action. Let us not forget that one spark for the American Revolution was when (British) police forces shot and killed a black “rioter,” Crispus Attucks, on the streets of Boston. If we are to learn anything from this history, we must recognize that most people stood on the wrong side of justice, fiercely opposing progress until the last possible moment and retrospectively appearing hateful and embarrassing.
It doesn’t matter whether racial injustice, ecology, or something else animates your politics. Join or organize a movement, challenge authority, and participate in reshaping our cultural and political worlds. Some will call you naive or complain about the inconvenience, but history will not remember then kindly and I, for one, will honor your protest.