“A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times.” Steve Goodier
Most people enjoy a good laugh. Unfortunately, it gets more difficult every day to maintain a sense of humor when horrific events, like yesterday’s violence in Charlottesville, and regularly occurring acts of evil worldwide, lead us to think that there is nothing to laugh about. Nevertheless, we must laugh whenever it is practical to do so, because without laughter, love, empathy, and the belief that there is a Supreme Being maintaining a balance between good and evil we have nothing but an unending feeling of dread and hopelessness.
I strive to write blog posts that are lighthearted, but following the tragic and senseless death of one the counter-protesters in Charlottesville, I felt compelled to write this post, for people who wonder why activists do what they do.
As a full-time protester-at-heart and a parttime-activist in reality, I feel tremendous empathy for activists. I’ve participated in my share of rallies, protest marches, and other cause-related activities. Unlike my friend, Linda Leaks, whose years of social action and experience give her license to write an encyclopedia on activism, I would do well to put together a small handbook on the subject.
My most recent participation in a cause-related event was the Women’s March on Washington which occurred on January 21, 2017, and drew an estimated 500,000 participants. Of all the events that I’ve participated in the one that required me to conjure up the most courage was when I joined numerous counter-demonstrators protesting a march and rally by a faction of the KKK who traveled from North Carolina to rally in Washington, DC in October 1990. Thanks to the counter-protesters the march never took place. Instead, to keep the two groups apart, mid-route, law enforcement officers loaded the Klansmen onto a bus and drove them to the capitol grounds where their rally took place.
I was first bitten by the protest bug while in high school. One of my two best friends (her first name is also Loretta) and I were circulating a petition asking that students be allowed to wear sneakers to school. Back in those “prehistoric years” of the late 1960s although DC schools had a casual dress code including appropriate footwear, students were not allowed to wear what we called tennis shoes to school. I don’t recall how many student signatures Loretta and I had acquired before a voice came over the PA system ordering the two of us to come to the principal’s office. We were given an order by the assistant principal to cease-and-desist, thereby putting an early end to my initiation into the world of peaceful protest.
In the decades after that, I’ve circulated my share of petitions and taken part in various demonstrations, marches, walks, and rallies. A number of the protests were to end homelessness, including nearly a dozen years of walking in the annual Fannie Mae Hammer homeless walk, and at least one march with homeless activist, the late Mitch Snyder. I also occasionally helped serve meals to the homeless residents of CCNV. I have walked for the cause of Breast Cancer prevention, Autism, Osteoporosis and Justice for Trayvon Martin, and in the 50th Anniversary March on Washington.
I think the fact that I’ve lived all of my life in a city where politics is the center of activity and because I have several lack-minded friends it has played a part in my desire to “do something.”
I applaud the counter-protesters who stepped-up to the plate in Charlottesville, and I pray for those injured and Heather Heyer, the young woman who lost her life.
If you’d like to learn more about why people choose to become activists, check out an excellent article published in Psychology Today titled “What Makes An Activist.”