By: Marie Ecrivain Contributing AOJ journalist
How do you know what you know and what is the way to change? The United States has been increasingly plagued by organizations and groups advocating for the violation of law rather than the change of law. This is America and every voice can be lifted in comment because of one of our most basic laws: freedom of speech. Routinely we hear about antiquated laws along with abusive government polices yet in the same breath attacks on legitimate government actions. There is the complete lack of knowledge supporting the rhetoric being passionately espoused by many.
Know before You Go
Many times, demonstrators are not fully informed of the goals of the movement or idea they are demonstrating for or with. Know before you go. What does that mean? Know what the demonstration or protests organizers long term goals are. Who if anyone is financing the event and what are their goals? Treat your time and effort just like you would a financial donation, everyone is always told to make sure you are giving your money to a legitimate organization that is responsible with their donations. Be aware of other affiliated organizations or groups that may also be present at the demonstration. Take time to educate yourself about counter protests that may also be there. Often times emotionally charged descriptions and worst-case scenarios are presented to evoke a passionate response from potential supporters. It is up to you to verify the claims and concerns that are being presented as a means to inspire your participation. Educate yourself outside of the materials presented by an organization organizing a demonstration or creating a call to action. You are putting your face and reputation in the hands of their cause make sure it is really your cause as well.
Demonstrating is a great venue to bring attention to a topic it is not a solution. Essentially a demonstration is no different than a hashtag; neither are change. The do foster a feeling of validity of conviction through a community of like-minded support but this is not change. Solutions and change require more work. Depending on the desired change it requires many additional steps. While a demonstration can inspire individuals to embark on activities to work for change the demonstration itself will not create a change. It can be a powerful tool to bring more individuals to support a cause this does not equate to action by those individuals. Take for example political campaign rally’s, like-minded people that support a candidate gather but this does not equate to all those people actually going to vote.
Is the Change Really Necessary?
Educate yourself on the impacts of the cause you are demonstrating or supporting. Is there already a method in place to address this concern. Take for example a proposal to provide local state-initiated transportation to seniors in your community. This initially sounds excellent to you. The cost to the town taxpayers will be $50,000 a year. Even with that cost you believe it to be a worthy cause and there must be a need if the county is presenting this to the town as a possible project. First do some research of your own. For example: what percentage of the community are eligible for this service, are there already organizations that provide this service, and find out what the transportation will actually provide. Let say you discover upon doing this research that 33% of the town’s population are senior citizens. That there are nonprofits that provide transportation for the town residents and that less than 2 years ago the county implemented monthly meeting with senior specialists to help seniors get county and federal assistance in the town. The transportation service being proposed will only transport town residents to town locations one to two designated days a week in a bus like fashion.
After doing your initial search about the cause you are preparing to support then reach out to experts in the area. For this example, the department of aging both the county and local contact and ask them about the concept and their thoughts and any input about it and what the current needs are for the senior community. Reach out to any senior citizens in the town you may know and get their thoughts. Having a firm working knowledge of the issue will then help you make a more informed determination on the merits of the issue rather than any emotional reaction. During this process it may even come to light of other areas more deserving of your efforts.
How about the longer-term ramifications of the cause you are advocating? Try to not be blinded by immediate results and think in terms of years and decades after the change. If you have difficulty trying to figure out what some of those issues might be create a “food web” but use the change as the center and work your way out to how it impacts the surrounding communities, businesses, government agencies, and so on. This may also prompt unforeseen impacts as you spread out. Those impacts could be either positive or negative.
How to Make a Change
In some incidents the proposed solution may not be feasible or perhaps even legal. Take some time to educate yourself on realistic legal solutions to the problem. Be prepared to advocate for proper change. That might mean additional steps to resolve the issue and may require advocating for more community involvement. For example, you may be advocating for a response that is legally not an option. Make certain the agency or entity you are advocating take action has the legal authority to take action. If not find out where that authority lies. All these steps take initial invest in time but also ensures that your overall investment in your cause is more likely to result in a long-term positive and resilient resolve. If you bypass educating yourself on the legal authority to action your progress at first may seem great until it is undone by the legal authority to make a decision and implement the change. Currently in the news a great example of this is illegal immigration: by ignoring laws and creating new ones in contradiction to existing laws only creates chaos and confusion but does not resolve the concerns or issues. Regardless of where your views are concerning illegal immigration your solution be considered within the limits of the legal system and start there to make the change.
Become a Savvy Supporter
Civic ignorance has its foothold and this needs to change. Americans need to take their ability to cause change seriously and approach it with responsibility. To often Americans are taking to demonstrating and supporting a cause without truly knowing what the goals of that organization are. It is time that Americans become savvy supporters. By becoming savvy supporters, it increases the likelihood that positive change will occur. Once a savvy supporter more Americans will take the next steps needed to make real and lasting change. .