I protest your protest

My mother is not the biggest Obama fan in the world.


When he came to speak at my old high school in Mesa last semester, she called to ask me for ideas for her protest sign. I rattled my brain for about a millisecond, suggested ""Mo' Bama, Mo' Problems,"" and changed the subject toward a more interesting topic.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT


(For the record, I don't believe that the current president is the anti-Christ, nor have I succumbed to the hype that his coming to the American throne will usher in a new golden era of free lunches and popsicles.)


Despite my disagreement with my mother on political affairs, I am intrigued and impressed by the fervor and determination she and her generation display in exercising their right to protest.


This is not the model or spirit of protest I have witnessed in my peers. However, with a guiltless heart and cynical smirk, I am quick to point out what protest has become in the actions and thoughts of my peers: pointless.


It all started with those silicone bracelets. I'll admit, at first the idea was pretty nifty. Lance Armstrong started a fad to raise money for cancer, and soon a number of other research causes caught on.


But then some grand marketing scheme started to qualify the bracelets as a form of ""protest,"" and things got a little fuzzy.


""I'm wearing this green armband to protest the genocide in Darfur.""


Oh? Excellent! As if a three-minute conversation with a fellow student in your high school English class was making a big impact to the protest of all the ""that bad stuff"" happening in Sudan.


It was only a matter of time before the charitable cause became a fashion trend, and anyone fad savvy could market themselves as a veritable cornucopia of color-coded protest with enough silicon wrapped around their arm to produce a Pentium III.


I hoped that at my arrival to college, political activism among my peers had graduated from a sweep of MTV-sponsored fashion trends to a set of ongoing, open-minded discourse.


Some that would seek to open up new perspectives, expose the masses to well researched, balanced information about issues in society and what those being educated could do in order to resist said tragedies.


I was disappointed.


I can sum up my experience with protest among my peers in college with two vivid instances.


One was a chain link fence put up in order to metaphorically stimulate conversation about the issues surrounding the border. However, it simultaneously obstructed my ability to get to the Cactus Grill from the Chemistry building in less than 20 minutes.


The other was a huge construct of vulgar depictions of aborted fetuses and other nauseating images placed apparently to cause me to lose my appetite for food and to develop an appetite for the anti-abortion agenda.


If anything is telling about our generation's attitudes toward protest and its place in our lives, it is the strategy and means through which outside parties choose to protest to us.


Apparently, we can only be persuaded through shock and awe tactics, guilt trips and physical barricades decorated with sob stories.


At least the infamous Brother Jed occasionally instigates and prompts dialogue.

I'm not trying to say that protest or creating awareness is bad, irrelevant or stupid.


I am saying that the means through which I have watched the majority of my peers attempt to carry out these activities has been less than impressive and somewhat lazy.


Though I will admit, I have watched a number of young, grass root activists stand in the hot sun and do their best to start honest conversations, inform the public and give them an opportunity to support a cause or protest through their time or their cash.


But for all those ""protesting X cause by raising awareness through X,"" stop kidding yourself. Your commemorative, fashionable armband, pin, t-shirt or hat is not a legitimate form of protest. It's an excuse to give yourself a pat on the back.



— Remy Albillar is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


Share this article