Since November I’ve been going to a lot of rallies, marches, and protests. Most have been peaceful. But being there is an action, usually a reaction to politics, policies, or persons. By its nature, an action can’t help but create some another action, a re-action. Heather Heyer fatally proved that in Charlottesville. Her death makes it even more important to stand for what I want, to continue to fight for what I love. What the kid in the car reminded me was that this can be dangerous, that for every action there is a reaction.
I’m aware of this when I show up at a rally. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I didn’t defend my country in a uniform but I can at least defend it with a sign and my time. What I must remember at each event is that I am there to support what I love, not fight what I’m against. A subtle distinction to be sure, just that one stance comes from love, the other from hate. I must remember I’m there for what I love – this big, broad, multi-colored democracy we call America. I’m not there against hate, bigotry, exclusion, and ignorance.
There are always counter-protestors at these events, sometimes nothing more than a swastika-clad man grinning on the sidewalk. Do I give him the finger and call him names, or do I blow him a kiss and tell him how sorry I am he’s in such pain? (Because, really, can you imagine being so desperate, so scared and angry that your only option is to find comfort in being a Nazi?)
If I shoot him a bird instead of a kiss, he wins. My anger will incite his. And it will escalate. Anger is its own fuel. The instant he’s baited me into a response, I’m his. He’s played me and I let him. I may as well have torn open my chest and handed over my heart.
We’re so passionate about we love that it’s hard not to react. But someone has to stay on the high road, to be able to see clearly enough to steer the ship where we want it to go. It’s as simple and difficult as Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. She sat on the bus for what she wanted. I challenge each of us to stand in the streets for what we love. To act for Heather, not against all the sad souls already in their own private hells.