The women's march was awesome. It was a safe, organized place for those of us who don't usually protest to get our feet wet. But it wasn't civil disobedience.
I follow Rogan's List and Robert Reich and a few others. They offer suggestions for letter writing, phone calling, boycotting certain businesses. These are all good actions to fight the inappropriate administration, but they're not civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience requires sacrifice. It involves breaking laws (peacefully), rejecting norms, opting out of legally required actions. It's risky and powerful and something we middle-aged, suburban white women don't want to do. We like to express our opinions, but only as long as it's safe, legal, "right," and comfortable.
We aren't living in a comfortable time. More human rights violations against more people than ever are at stake. However we sugar-coated previous human rights fights, however we kept our distance and pretended they weren't really that big a deal, we are being forced, now, to face up to some seriously inappropriate government actions that threaten to (dare I say it?) touch OUR lives!
It's OK if you want to play it safe and only speak up about the actions that impact you or your loved ones. It's OK to defend your own reproductive choices and health with letters and phone calls. But don't pretend that you're protesting. And be aware, the people of color who pass you on the street KNOW that you're not fighting for them. They've learned not to expect it anymore. The prostitutes KNOW you aren't aware that they're trapped, malnourished, abused. The refugees crowding into Greece and Germany, waiting, hoping for a chance to settle somewhere peaceful where they can become part of a community again KNOW that you haven't really noticed that they're living in tents without water or electricity.
For half a century, we've gotten away with ignoring human rights violations in our own neighborhoods, let alone across the world. We can't afford to get away with it anymore. Our whole civic structure is at stake, and the time for true civil disobedience is at hand.
It's not enough to march with a permit and nice policemen wearing pink hats. We have to also march in front of offending businesses, protest at city hall when unfair legislation is proposed, block traffic, picket private property, take chances, be willing to be arrested. We have to stand with Standing Rock and be prepared for attacks from "authorities." We have to withhold our tax returns until the president reveals his conflicts of interest.
Not all of us are in a position to exercise true civil disobedience, but it's important that we recognize what it is, what it requires, and how powerful it can be. Maybe all you can do is boycott companies that do business with Trump. Or donate to a charity that cares for marginalized people. Maybe you can quit shopping at a store that costs taxpayers $6 billion in government assistance for their employees every year, or the fast food chains that are nearly as big a drain on public funds. Maybe you can sit down with your financial advisor and pull out of funds that support slavery and child labor (especially African coffee and cocoa sources), and instead invest in businesses that are working to improve living conditions for the people that source their products.
We can't all go to jail. We can't all get pepper-sprayed. But we can all refuse to participate in SOME WAY, to send the message that we DON'T support current political actions and we DO care about people less insulated than ourselves. If we aren't willing or able to do the work, we can at least take care of the people who ARE doing it, and be grateful to them.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.