Protest doesn't work, but let's do it anyways

On the weekend, I went to a Walk for Reconciliation.

This incredible puppet was a part of the Elders group, leading the walk.

Context, for those who need it: Canada has a very, very dark history in our treatment of Aboriginal people. This includes taking children away from their families and putting them in schools where the goal was to "remove the Indian from the child" through education and abuse. It went on for a very long time. This year is Canada's 150th anniversary as a country (I know! Baby nation!) and so a lot of focus has been on the fact that this is not only 150 years of confederation, but 150 years of colonialism. The movement for reconciliation has grown in strength and popularity this year.

I was walking with some friends from my church, some of which had never taken part in a "political" walk before. I've been doing them since I was a teenager, and one friend asked if I've ever seen concrete change come out of participating in a walk or protest.

The honest answer? Nope.

I honestly don't believe that protest creates tangible change. Historically, protests didn't stop Vietnam, and the various injustice I have protested either continue today or ended all on their own, for other reasons.

So why do I do it?

Two reasons:

One is that it has social value. It won't change anyone's mind, but it demonstrates a critical mass. It tells those on the other side that everyone doesn't agree with them and lets those on my side see that they aren't alone. It gives strength to the arguments of politicians who agree with me, and might help someone who was scared to speak up do so.

The other is for my own conscience. I am physically standing up for what I believe in. That is important and powerful to me.

One of my friends had a different reason, one that I thought was very meaningful. He said he was doing the walk, basically, to push his future self into the right actions. Since he did this walk, he would be a hypocrite if later he didn't take steps towards reconciliation. He didn't quite know what that meant, or how it would work, he just wanted to start somewhere.

I thought that was really lovely and powerful. Sometimes we know something is right, but we don't quite know how it works or what it means. Maybe then, if you stand up for that thing in a public way, even if it's just symbolic, you'll push yourself to follow through. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite.


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