Thursday, November 3, 2011

Showing Strength

Today's Tribune has a photo with this in its caption:

"Thousands of... protesters were in the streets as part of day-long events to show the movement's strength."

That is a fascinating statement. The caption does not report that the point of this gathering was to show the movement has logical conclusions or workable ideas or an established record of effectiveness. After all, those are often conveyed more persuasively by one or a few well-chosen representatives, not a crowd. Instead, the protesters described in today's paper sought to be heard and attended to, and was trying to accomplish this by demonstrating they have sufficient power to significantly impact others. It sounds like a group frustrated with feeling powerless.

Indian cobra with hood flared
I am leaving out details because it isn't only about this movement or expression or event. Like a cobra spreading its hood to look more imposing, people who feel threatened often try to make themselves appear larger in some way. We write more, talk louder, ally with others, try to exert power somehow over others' lives.

That article in today's paper contains news about a current issue in our country, and is therefore relevant to me. Quite frankly, though, I can't do much to directly address the concerns of those three thousand distant protesters, so the protest is merely information for me, not something that elicits a particular response.

What I can do, though, is recognize the frustrations of people on the many sides of complicated issues and create space in my world where individuals are respected and heard. I can listen first and then speak, aiming first for mutual understanding and then for mutual respect when the time comes for action. Perhaps this kind of movement, though much quieter than a protest, ultimately holds greater potential for bringing about lasting change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." (source uncertain)

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