On the Importance of Visible Dissent

Last night, I participated in the San Francisco Women's March. I did not do so alone—current estimates place attendance at over a hundred thousand people, with a similar turnout in Oakland. From a first-hand perspective, the sheer volume of participants was staggering. It was certainly one of the largest gatherings I have ever attended, and perhaps also the most surprising.

As it turns out, it sucks to lose. It sucks even more when the price of your defeat is the knowledge that you and your ideals are no longer in the majority. Rights can be reaffirmed, laws can be reinstated, but human lives, once extinguished, are gone forever. And to know that the world in which we live is a less equitable, more dangerous place in light of a single moment in history, is a difficult pill to swallow.

Sadly, no amount of well-intentioned liberal think pieces can unring that bell. Likewise, it is true that no matter how many millions of people gather for peaceful protests, the state of our nation is unlikely to change overnight. But I found unexpected value in the act of visible dissent.

Just standing outside, freezing and soaking wet with a hundred thousand other people who aren't willing to sit idly by as women, people of colour, immigrants, and members of the LBGT community are persecuted and marginalized—there is a surprising amount of power in that. I think true progress will mostly be won through compassionate small communities and local outreach, but there is a special kind of statement that can only be made with a sea of humanity, united in purpose, comprised of millions of individuals who each made a decision to stand up show support for their fellow human beings.

It's tremendously reassuring to be surrounded by people who seek not the abject defeat of their enemies, but the common ground of equity and basic human rights. And I think there is significance to a tangible, countable, physical presence that just doesn't come across in an equivalent hailstorm of tweets and op-eds.

So, thank you to all the people who walked down Market Street yesterday. To paraphrase Malcolm Reynolds, we may have been on the losing side, but I'm still not convinced it's the wrong one.

Tom Heinan