Rosa Parks knew where the line was. She was buried yesterday amid the accolades of a grateful nation. We can be profoundly grateful that she dissented in a way that changed America and the world. She knew how to do it.
There are many forms of dissent, from “I don’t agree with you,” to a blog post, to sitting down in the wrong seat on a bus, to a protest march, to bloody riot in the streets, to a full blown war. The dilemma of those in power is how are the dissenters to be answered by those who hold the power. How far can they go to quell dissent? And the dissenters’ dilemma is equally difficult. What form of dissent will cause a change in direction? How far can we go? And what will be the consequences if it fails?
In a blog post, “Hunter” at Daily Kos passionately articulates objection to recent congressional budget cutting that will hurt poor people. The Republican Majority usually does not hear from many poor people themselves and, even if they did, they could just ignore the dissent and pass whatever they wanted. And that they have done much of the time since 2000.
One form of dissent, plunging opinion poll numbers, can sometimes force a change of direction. Republican’s favorable poll numbers currently seem to be in free fall. Maintaining the status quo is our current president’s style, so we will see whether he is able to pivot towards success. It will probably depend on how much pressure comes to bear on the White House from thoughtful influential Republicans who see these same poll numbers.
All too often dissent turns to protest which turns to violence. People stop thinking about consequences. Yesterday in Argentina violent protestors demonstrated and eventually rioted against the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) being touted at the America’s Summit meeting attended by our current president. Venezuelan President Chavez held his own protest rally of over 25,000 people in a soccer stadium nearby. The chance is slim that summit leaders in Argentina will be moved by either a riot or a rally.
Governments have the capacity to put down violence with force, without getting to the root causes. Rioters in France are being arrested following several nights of unrest in immigrant dominated areas in Parisian suburbs. Violent clashes in Ethiopia started after elections in May that opposition leaders believed were rigged. The conflict has resulted in the deaths of a number of people at the hands of their government.
The hard part for some people who dissent is to protest in a nonviolent way. And even when the dissent is nonviolent, punishment can be harsh. For example, Internet writers from Egypt, and Libya were bloggers jailed, and a blogger from China was harrassed and his site shut down.
In an ironic closing of my circle of thoughts today, I see that the fathers of the Internet will be honored by the White House in a few days. I doubt that blog dissent is what those at the ceremony will be celebrating.
However, happy blogging, dissenters!