Deafness in high places

Protests serve their purpose. They are a start, but only a start.

There were not a lot of elected officials at the Reno march last weekend. An organizer told us they were not invited—not that they needed special invitations—because they wanted to emphasize the grassroots: “We listen to them all the time, and wanted them to hear us this time!”

In the fall of 1969, there were monthly, massive protests coast to coast against the war in Vietnam. The war continued for another five years.

On Feb. 15, 2003, there were worldwide protests against the impending, unprovoked U.S. war against Iraq, with millions marching throughout the Americas, Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe—the largest demonstration in human history. We launched the war, anyway.

“The [2003] protests, which by any measure were a world historic event, were brushed aside with blithe nonchalance by the Bush Administration and a rubber-stamp Congress that approved the war,” one participant wrote 10 years later. “The U.N.’s Security Council was bypassed, and the largely feckless, acquiescent American mainstream media did little to muffle Washington’s drumbeats of war.”

Never underestimate the deafness of those who raise thousands of dollars a day to stay in office. Sure, they should be listening to everyone, but no, they don’t. Our political system has long since reached the point that a razor blade of difference cannot be slid between a campaign contribution and a bribe.

As we look around for someone to blame for Donald Trump, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the mirror. It was only 16 years ago that we inaugurated another unelected president. How many of us were angry enough to keep the pressure on Congress to do something about that system? What kind of message does it send to the teens in our society that during their lifetimes we have tolerated two presidents the public voted against?

When we covered the march last weekend, we found some participants who found the experience cathartic. After 10 weeks of gloom and anger, one of them told us, “I now know I’m not alone.” There is a danger in this. The gloom and anger served a purpose, of keeping us motivated to do something about the terrible mess our system has become that it can throw up such a despicable result. Not all agree (see 15 minutes, page 31), but change is not produced by those who are contented. If feel-good activities drain away our concern—or, worse, if safe, noncontroversial issues divert us—we’ll be right back where we were in 2015.

We should be better than what we produced in our 2016 election. If not, then sit back and relax. But if you are having trouble living with Donald Trump speaking for you, then give a lot of thought to what is next now that the women’s marches are history. The folks at the top are not going to do anything without being given a darned good reason. The marches provide momentum. But there has to be something next to employ that momentum.