The 2-year-old and I attended a rally in support of Planned Parenthood in Albany last weekend. It was my first rally (except for the prayer vigil in town a few weeks ago). I didn’t know what to expect.
To be honest, I felt a little awkward. I never managed to meet up with my friends. The baby got a lot of attention, but I mostly didn’t know what to do with myself. So I just stood there and tried to take up space — not hard to do with a baby on your back — and make the crowd look bigger.
I’m glad I went. I would go again. I’ve talked with a few different people about the phenomenon of large groups, and they have different rationales for their importance. One pointed out the impact of seeing a large number of people in one place for the same reason. Another talked about how the act of protesting changes the protesters. And everyone agreed on the need for sustained action.
There has been a lot written about why liberal protests don’t work: they are just a catharsis. They make everyone feel better, and then everyone goes home and goes about their daily lives. Detractors point to the Occupy Wall Street Movement as an example of liberal failure. I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize that movement as a failure, when we had a candidate like Bernie Sanders bringing so much national attention to many of the issues on their platform.
And there have been other protests that have brought real change: Selma, Stonewall, a huge number of protests against the Vietnam War.
The problem is that change comes slowly. Protests help to make the problems visible to those not directly affected.
I keep meaning to write about my top three causes, where I want to put my energy over the next several years, and I keep getting distracted by the barrage of bad news, by how many things need attention. But women’s rights, specifically women’s reproductive rights, has always been one of my causes. It was probably my first cause.
So it seems fitting that this was my first big rally.