On Tiny Little Protests And Being Embarrassing

Here is me, sitting on the roof of my car somewhere along I-5, holding up signs that my son and I scrawled on the blank pages of a Melissa & Doug coloring book that we picked up at a roadside gift shop specializing in BBQ rubs and adorable wall hangings that read “Wine A Bit; You’ll Feel Better.”

The signs I’m holding in that photo, in case you can’t read them, say “SCIENCE MATTERS” and “FACTS MATTER.” My son wanted his to say “MAD SCIENCE.” We had been reading about Saturday’s March For Science all morning, but hadn’t thought to plan ahead so we could join one. We drove through miles and miles of dusty fields on our way home from the campsite where we’d spent our weekend, trying to explain what was happening to our son via the story of the Lorax. Finally we stopped, and bought a coloring book to make signs with. Then we parked our car by the freeway off-ramp, set beach towels on the blisteringly hot roof, and I crawled up, aware that I was about to seriously embarrass myself.

Then I started yelling. Mostly call-and-response chants, because despite the fact that they don’t make a whole lot of sense for a party of one, I like them.



Et cetera.

(I wasn’t technically a party of one, of course: Kendrick was there, but he was busy convincing our daughter that no, she could not stand on a car roof with mom despite the fact that she promised – via shrieking – that she was a big girl who most certainly could. My son was also there and being awesome with his sign, but because he is thirty seconds away from teenagerhood he already approaches any public display of anything with extreme wariness.)

I am aware that I looked completely out of my mind. (I am certain of this, in fact, because of the expression on the face of the gas station attendant who was sweeping the ground a few feet away.) And trust me, I felt ridiculous doing this. Ridiculous. But I did it anyway, because “it’ll be embarrassing” was really the only reason I could see why I wouldn’t.

I think there’s a sense – I’ve felt it myself – that if you’re not in a central location for a march (D.C., New York, maybe San Francisco), then there’s really no way to participate… and if you do join a smaller march it’s somehow less…I don’t know, less important. Less impactful. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go to the Women’s March in San Jose because it’d be like standing on the sidelines of a moment I wanted so badly to experience “for real.” Whatever that means.

You know what the most powerful march I’ve been to so far was? The one at the airport; the one that gathered spontaneously in response to the travel ban. There weren’t that many people there – at least not at the beginning – but everyone was there because they meant it. As it turned out, they meant it so much that other people started joining them, and then they ended up making a difference.

resist trump image for a poster

A friend of mine made these and plastered his town with them in the middle of the night.

So I guess I’m just saying that I really do believe that any show of dissent – even if all it amounts to is you, parked on the side of a highway and yelling from the roof of your car…it matters. Maybe you’re in an area (like, say, a random town bumped up next to the freeway) where voices of protest are few and far between, or maybe you just don’t know how to access any kind of formalized resistance in your area: you can still be involved.

I used to cringe when I heard the word “resistance” – it sounded intimidating, wildly dramatic, even obnoxious. “I’m part of the resistance!” Cool, yo. …Are you also charging through fortresses while Kevin Costner shoots fire-arrows and Christian Slater adorably clears a wall?

But then over these past few months I heard those words – “the resistance” – more and more, and all of a sudden a switch flipped. Because saying that you’re a part of the resistance isn’t a nominal, overblown self-back-pat…it means that you’re one of the millions of people saying, very simply, “this is not okay”. And those who are turned off by the word or shocked by it or weirded out by it…well, you know what? Being turned off or shocked is a response, for better or for worse. And a response is the point. Because somewhere in all those responses are the people who might just hear you.

What I’m saying in this roundabout way is actually (I promise) pretty straightforward:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter what party you identify with – conservative, liberal, Ewok, whatever – what we are experiencing is a sea change in the tides of history. You can be involved, you can be present, and you can be heard, simply by saying right out loud that you won’t be silenced.

P.S. Go sign up for ResistBot if you haven’t already by texting RESIST to 50409 (more information on the app here). Can’t recommend it enough.

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