Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How Much is Too Little: When and How Should We Protest?

Tonight I was lucky enough to catch Terry Gross's interview with Director Brett Morgen about his new film, Chicago 10, which documents the story of anti-war protesters charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot in 1968 (listen to the whole interview here). Near the end of the interview, Morgen mentions that he sees the film as being deeply involved with the issues we face today - war, attacks on our civil liberties, and the framing of any protest as unpatriotic. The purpose of the film, according to its director, is to prompt the audience to ask itself, "Are we doing enough?"

This was not a question I was comfortable directing at myself, so I snuggled-up with my laptop and prepared to ignore any calls to action that Morgen's comments might prompt within the recesses of my mind.

Unfortunately for my well-nursed sense of complacency, one of the first stories to catch my eye was this BBC piece about the incredible women protesting for greater protection from the law for lesbians across the African continent:
Lesbians from across Africa have called on African governments to stop treating homosexuals like criminals.
The demand came as about 75 activists gathered at a conference in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique... According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries.
The bravery of these women stuck me as extraordinary. To protest on the behalf of lesbians takes strength in almost any community, but to do so in communities where violence against women and gays alike is common-placed, where both groups are afforded little, if any, protection by the law - such heroism is inspiring.

So, for the second time this evening I find myself forced into considering whether I am doing enough to challenge the injustices I see. Fortunately, publicly criticizing the government is still a much safer act in my country than it is in many parts of the world, so if I can't muster the sort of courage shown by the women protesting in Mozambique, I might still be able to work for change on issues that are important. Yet, my question remains - how should we best protest the injustices faced by members of our community? What methods are the most likely to bring about positive change?

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