Shout it out loud

To read Time’s reasons for selecting Protester as Person of the Year, check out:

Time magazine last week announced its Person of the Year for 2011: the Protester. From Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, the world has seen its share of political protests with impact this year. While some high-profile protests have made noticeable and lasting changes, it is yet to be determined what the effects of others will be. Still, it is encouraging to see people expressing their dissatisfaction with the way things are being run rather than sitting idly by in the face of injustice. But, in Nevada—one of the states that is suffering the most in a country that is suffering all around—the protesting is not saying enough.

In Egypt, protests lead to revolution and the eventual ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Through civil disobedience, labor strikes and public demonstrations, the Egyptian people were able to unite and overthrow an oppressive regime. These remarkable events emphasized what I have always believed—protesting can make a difference.

It is an underrated art form. When Occupy Wall Street was in its infancy, I heard too many people write it off as something that would have no impact on anyone’s lives. However, as of last Saturday, the movement has been around for three months, gaining momentum with each passing day and making news at each turn. Incidents of police brutality combined with the unwavering determination of the occupiers have only made it clearer that the protests are necessary and that United States citizens need to speak out and demand change.

Although Nevada faces some daunting problems, such as high unemployment, local protests have been largely unpublicized and meagerly attended compared to those in larger cities. People who align themselves with Occupy Reno have staged a few interesting events in the community—on Dec. 2, members of the group appeared at a public meeting about the United States Postal Service’s proposal to close a Reno sorting facility, shouting statements like, “The loss of 177 jobs is unacceptable!” in unison during the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment. On Dec. 4, a handful of protesters attempting to occupy an area of downtown Reno were thwarted when police asked them to leave by 10 p.m.

I think these are valiant efforts, but they aren’t enough. I still find myself wondering where everybody is. We have every reason to be vocal about our unpleasant situation, but many of us are silent. Why aren’t more Nevadans angry enough to take to the streets in protest? Why are we not motivated enough to demand change from our political leaders? Why don’t we want to take advantage of our right to participate in the political discourse and protest?

One of the first protests I remember going to was in opposition of the demolition of the Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno. I was 9 years old, and my mother helped me make a sign that read, “Reno’s soul is in danger.” A picture of me holding the sign beside the Truckee River ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal, and I clipped the article for my scrapbook. The hotel was demolished in early 2000, but the protest, I remember, was exhilarating.

Protesting is exciting. It is a physical, hands-on way to raise questions and point out injustice. We should believe in the power of protest and take notice of what protesters have to say. When we are displeased, we, too, should make our feelings known. I mean, The Protester is the Person of the Year. We might as well live up to this title, make the most of democracy and express ourselves.