I rarely become involved on Twitter, but when a fellow Galwegian ridiculed Galway’s protesting women and what he called their “...silly little march...” I dived in.
Maybe I acted out of character because I’d been wrong about Trump, erroneously believing he’d become more realistic once ensconced in the White House. Instead, his first outburst in office chilled me to the bone.
Even more than his pussy grabbing and vile travel ban, I was deeply disturbed by the nonsensical claims of crowd size at his inauguration. Seeing him and his team adjust reality on day one in the job, brazenly denying the plain facts paraded in front of our eyes, l felt truly fearful for the first time.
History shows such behaviours to be an hors d’oeuvres to dictatorship.
Do I think that America will become a fascist state?
No, I don’t, not for a second.
America fought a war of rebellion to exist, a civil war to become one nation. From Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter, protest pulses around America’s veins, and they, the people will not allow for totalitarianism.
With personal freedoms and human rights now seriously under threat in America, protest and resistance will prove more vital than ever. While we must respect the democratic process, we first have to respect each other.
Electoral systems are inherently flawed, and sometimes they spit out a dangerous answer. That’s when you have to stand up and be counted; to get up off your arse and stand by people of colour; women; the disabled; anybody who justifiably feels threatened, because if you wait, there’ll be none left to stand up for you.
More, you do it because you’re a compassionate human being, driven by what you know is right and good.
What you don’t do is sit back, comfy and safe in your West of Ireland home and mock those fighting for their own freedom, or others displaying solidarity with them.
Yes, there’s something gratingly irritating about Generation Snowflake, the young people whose worst nightmare has been an ill-fitting pair of jeans, out on the streets going boohoo, my candidate lost, but now this is about much more than them.
On the day after Trump’s inauguration, 3.5 million Americans marched in their streets. They will not go quietly into this president’s dark night, while in 20 countries around the world others marched alongside them in defiance.
When yer man on Twitter said that these people should “get over themselves”, a picture of my father flashed across my brain. We had this the same argument, over and over again, for years.
Each time I returned from a protest march in central London he’d rustle up something he considered ver’ ver’ witty, along the lines of:
“Humph. Well at least you managed not to get arrested. So, do you feel you’ve changed the world?”
Both my father and this bloke on Twitter seemed to feel that democracy starts and ends with a cross on a ballot paper. To me the vote is a key to a host of freedoms, each precious. You either use them or lose them.
It’s not hard to understand why people choose to mock some protesters, yet had they ever been part of a protest movement, they might respect the importance of such events. People don’t solely march in protest to change things. When times become scary, we gather on the streets to feel the safety of numbers.
As a youth I faced the horror of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby the Soviet Union and USA threatened to annihilate us as a species. To me that end felt terrifyingly close.
What comfort then to join hundred of thousands and march together from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, to listen to Tony Benn and Monsignor Bruce Kent speak sense.
For some reason I never truly fathomed, I think my father felt I was abusing my democratic rights by marching in the streets, while I felt I was exercising them.
We marched and sang and joked together and laughed and cried and wailed together. If you had felt lonely you now felt comforted. If you had felt angry you now felt empowered. If you were feeling down and blue you now felt energised and hopeful.
There’s so much more to protesting together than trying to change the world. The good stuff starts with ourselves, igniting our souls, spirits and minds.
“One two three four, we don’t want your nuclear war!”
It’s all very well having a plethora of protest marches as Trump takes office, but the resistance must continue. It’s not good enough to sit back and think it’ll all be over in four years, because the damage done by then might be irreparable.
The death and destruction of fascism lurks only two generations away from this Jewish scribbler. Resistance and protest must be supported, not smugly mocked.
Without the comfort and catharsis of protest marches, people either hide away, crumbling in desperate isolation, or collect together in small groups and plan violent retribution.
I’d rather have collective camaraderie than Al-Qaeda any day.
The argument progressed no further on Twitter than it did with my Dad.
Sit back, say nothing and your right to argue with me might be gone.