I remember when I said I would never go to a protest again. It was in 1986 or 1987. I was a sophomore in college and I had the privilege of seeing police violence against my fellow students. It wasn’t even horrible violence.
It was enough violence for you to understand that seeing violence on TV does not prepare you for seeing violence in real life. It was enough violence for me to say I would never go to a protest again.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t protest or take action. I just didn’t go to those gatherings called protests. Every now and again, though, I get sucked in. It’s like this insidious addiction. It’s a form of persistent and irrational belief. An insidious and irrational belief, that indeed, things can change. That indeed, those few crazies will make a difference somehow.
Tonight I went to a protest.
It wasn’t a big or loud protest and it wasn’t a violent protest. It was a weird protest, in fact, because these loonies are running for parliament.
Since when do revolutionaries run for parliament?
The funny thing is the protests look the same as ever. I strolled down the boulevard in Tel Aviv to see those same washed-out signs, long-haired stringy-bodied guys in ripped jeans, tables with printed papers, alternative band playing music, people sitting on the floor, and smoking. Smoking! In 2013, the revolutionaries are still sitting cross-legged in a circle and smoking tobacco. They’re still choosing slangy slogans with double entendre inappropriate for polite company.
It was fun. It was familiar. They used the R word a lot. (Revolution. Remember, that’s what this article is about.)
I thought about how far we have come. These revolutionaries are talking about breaking the bonds between big business and politicians, between money and the media, between capital and capitol. We weren’t talking about that 30 years ago. We were fighting to even have a nation. We’ve come a long way.
When I see these revolutionaries, I’m glad. I think of Abba Eben. I think of his wish that we would become a “normal” nation, like all the other nations.
We have become such a nation. Our economy is like those of our Western colleagues, with a growing gap between rich and poor. Our government has become layered with unnecessary spending that doesn’t result in better services for our citizens. Our educational system is failing us. We suffer from internal violence and drunk driving deaths more than wars or terrorism.
And we have those same revolutionaries as they have all over the world, protesting those same things, talking about social justice. We have the same protests. The same breed of people thinking that they will get together in our boulevards, our plazas, and ultimately our capitol city, and make a difference. We had a million of them out in the summer of 2012. A million. Our population is only 7 million. A million of us are angry enough to show up and protest, at least once.
“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” they might say. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check–a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind [our nation] of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Yes, they might say that.
Happy Martin Luther King day, to the revolutionaries, and to all who have revolution in their heart if not in their feet or on our lips. Happy Election Day to all of us, and may us all vote with our hearts and not with our fears or even our logic.
Let us, the voters be so bold tomorrow as to remember that it is us, not the pollsters, who determine the outcome of our elections.
Godspeed to us all. Let freedom ring.