Demand or Take?

Protesters are invariably in the first category. They demand action. So while, yes, they are out there “doing something”, what they are doing is demanding that someone else do.

That’s not me.

I haven’t been reasonably successful in business, I haven’t saved money for retirement, I haven’t paid off a mortgage and built a safe home for us to live in by demanding someone else do me.

I’m a “take action” person.

One of my first chores every day is figuring out what I need to do Today’s list, for example, has things like “Noon MD appointment” and “feed the grass” and “pay bills”.

But I do have my limitations because as much as I oppose some of the things done in Washington, there’s often not much I can do about it.

I suppose you could say I should phone my congressman or send him an email. And I’ve done as much but, when they’ve bothered to make a response other than “We got your message,” the answer usually implies that my idea is a good one but they just can’t do anything about it right now.

So I resolve that, come next election, I will do something about that. And, if enough people agree, then things will change.

Barack Obama was elected because enough folks were motivated to vote for him. They listened, liked what they heard, and voted for the man, at least in part, because they thought he could do certain things.

Today, the tide seems to be rising in the opposite direction but Tuesday, November 8, 2016 – the next Presidential election – is still a long way off.

Between now and then, I will continue to do things I can accomplish all by myself.

Most will be small like cutting the grass or fixing a leaky pipe.

But I can have a bigger effect on things. The first step is helping my family members make better decisions about things. I’ll talk with them, maybe offer to do some things on their behalf, but I’ll also expect them to do things.

Ultimately, however, I have to agree there is a place for large scale protests. The official actions these motivate are sometimes questionable particularly when we’re looking for long-term change but what protests are really after is changing minds and, ultimately, changing votes.

Here’s a confession.

I grew up in the deep south in the 1950s when segregation was the accepted norm. Although I may have wondered and been somewhat perplexed at the sight of the sign marking the “Colored Drinking Fountain”, nonetheless, I didn’t try to do anything about it.

It wasn’t until the civil rights protests and marches of the 1960s that I realized just how wrong all that segregation had been. Those who lived that decade in this country remember how turbulent, frightening and deadly it really was. It was a major upheaval.

Today, half a century later, some things are better. Not all, mind you, but some. To the protesters who say we still have a long way to go, I will sadly agree. We are still, in some areas more than others, a highly segregated society.

But some things have changed, and they’ve changed for the better.

I will argue that where things are better is where people got up to do things and the more immediate their actions – immediate as in one on one, mano-on-mano, father to son, mother to daughter – in those areas, the most effect has been achieved.

But there are areas where little is changed and action is still being demanded.

Demand has changed laws and changed opinion, but action is still lacking.

Demand has done as much as it can.

There must still be people who do what’s needed. It is those actions that motivate the protesters, that provide the acts about which the speakers can speak.

I’m not suggesting violence or war. Those are the last resort to be used only when two conditions are true: 1) all other avenues of change have been attempted, and 2) the situation has become utterly intolerable.

But you can write your congressman this evening – I encourage you to do so – but ask first, what can I do today?

And then go do it.

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