By Zeus Sumra
Published: November 23rd, 2016
I am almost sure that if you were a die-hard Bernie fan like me, you must have Googled “How to impeach Trump?” at least once after the general elections. But while many of us were Googling and bombarding Facebook with everything related to politics, many others had taken to the streets to voice their concerns. In response to the demonstrations, however, there has been backlash condemning the principles and purpose of such protests. Whereas many think that such protests after a general election are an attack on our democracy, I believe that these protesters are true defenders of our country and could not be any more democratic.
Among those fueling the backlash are political analysts, commentators, and regular citizens. “Why are they protesting?” asked my aunt on Friday as we watched the news. She added, “What do they think? They’re going to change the election results?”
As I challenged my aunt’s opinions, I realized that she felt the need to be politically active only during the campaigns and thought one should accept the results of the election until the next four years. Sadly, she is not alone. It seems that many Americans believe that having a bumper sticker that says either “I’m With Her” or “Make America Great Again” for six months before that nerve-racking Tuesday in November is what it means to be an active citizen.
There is always a significant drop in the number of voters in nonpresidential election years. According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of eligible voters participated in the presidential election year of 2012, whereas only 37 percent had voted in the previous non-presidential election year of 2010. One may argue that these statistics say more about the enormous amount of funding that presidential candidates receive for advertising and campaigns rather than the concern of the public for who becomes our representatives. But when the percent of eligible voters exercising their democratic right drops by almost 20 points, we must question our ideals as one of the countries that claims to hold the title, “mother of democracy”.
“Everyone voted and Hillary lost. Now I don’t care if they are upset, but it is what it is. Get over it.” Like my coworker who made this statement, many believe that protesters are just angry that their candidate did not win. I, however, think that the protests across the country are much deeper than anger over a candidate’s loss. To be active participants in the governing of the country, we cannot simply back one of two candidates to be commander in chief and go back to living life as if we were not subject to every decision made by the government. These protesters are making it known that they have a voice that speaks out for freedom, liberty and justice for all—a voice that will not be silenced no matter who is elected president.
It is a dangerous thing to believe that protesters who are speaking out for a cause that seems unlikely to be achieved should be disregarded. Had Martin Luther King and many other leaders of the Civil Rights movement given up amidst great adversity, African Americans today may not have some of the many rights that they deserve. The same can be said for those who have stood for numerous movements for equality and justice in our society.
In case we are forgetting, the very first amendment makes it clear that citizens have the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Protestors are simply exercising that right. We now have a President-Elect who stands for a lot of values that have instilled fear among many minority and vulnerable groups in society such as Hispanic/Latino people, Muslims, and LGBTQ people. Protesters are letting Washington know that they are not willing to turn back the clock of history to the era of Jim Crow and Anti-Gay laws. These protesters are not trying to further divide our country, but are instead exercising their democratic responsibility, and they do not see the need to wait until Donald Trump announces that he has hired a contractor to build a wall or has a plan to deport immigrants and refugees to do so.
So the next time you hear of protesters speaking against or for the President, whether you agree or not, we ought to give each citizen a listening ear. We should never try to silence citizens if we are to remain the flagship of freedom for the world. We cannot stop once the elections are over. We must get involved in our community by participating in movements and organizations that promote the causes we believe will make our society better. Furthermore, we must work not only to promote policies that will benefit us or groups that we identify with, but for others who are at risk of not being well represented by our government. That may or may not include protesting. At the end of the day, freedom for all should reign. Democracy should not and will not be silenced!