I've always had a tough time wrapping my mind around political marches and rallies.
I could never quite come to terms with the fact that walking around and yelling actually gets stuff done. I imagined a senator sitting in his office, legs propped up on his window ledge, scoffing at the cold protestors walking by outside as he drinks from his scotch. The crowd's yells and screams, chants and slogans, weren't going to change his mind. It was set in stone, just as stubborn as the mob that opposed him and his side, whatever side that may be.
I didn't see the point, honestly. Sure, political protests throughout history have accomplished magnificent feats: overthrown despotic rulers, changed long-held prejudices, and corrected the course of corrupt governments. But for me, someone living in the cushy US of A at the early stage of a new century, I was a bit jaded. What's the point of all that yelling and chanting? It's not going to change anyone's mind, not going to move mountains. I thought that protesting in the streets doesn't get anything done, simple as that.
Until now, that is.
Let me start by saying that I don't mean for this to be a political post. I've had enough of political talk and we're barely three weeks into the new term. I could rant and rave about certain decisions made by certain people, but that's not the point of this blog. This blog was first created by three guys to talk about how they interact with the world around them and we try our best to keep it that way.
Alright, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
I'd watched coverage of the numerous marches springing up like daisies all over our country. I'd seen the messages, the crowds, the united front, yet didn't find the need to make a move on my part. They had it covered, they were doing good things and I was supporting them from behind my computer.
It wasn't until I attended Montana's Rally for Public Lands last month that I saw how much a groundswell can turn into a flood.
Over 1,500 people packed into the rotunda of Helena's capital building, well over the fire code regulations. Flannel and camo, orange beanies and trucker hats covered the press of people, interspersed with signs claiming public lands for public hands and other related messages (one humorously related to grabbing certain anatomical areas). We were all there, conservatives and liberals, hunters and anglers, vegetarians and carnivores, to ensure that our right to public lands would not be wrested away from us, the public.
We were, and still are, the rightful owners of the more than 640 million acres of federal land, land that may sadly be transferred to states to do with as they wish. These are states who most times do not have the means or monies to sustain the maintenance of their acreage, thereby resorting to their sale to private interests.
There I go, ranting and raving. But at this rally, I was surrounded by others who felt just as strongly as I did about keeping our public lands in safe hands. That's when it hit me, then, that rallies and marches aren't just an outlet to yell, to voice your anger, but also to come together as a mass of like-minded people, to congeal into a force who can not only voice your discontent with the system, but plan for the next steps of making actual changes.
I honestly feel my chest getting tight with excitement as I write this, as I remember the wave of combined voices that chanted "Public Lands in Public Hands", the wave that crested when Governor Steve Bullock promised us that he wouldn't stop in protecting them, that our voices had been heard. It was sweaty and stifling, sure, but man did we pack everyone into that small area.
We were there because we all felt strongly, knew it deep down in our core, that something was wrong, that there were changes on the horizon that could seriously damage, even erase, our communion with nature.
I came away from that rally with a fire in my belly and hurricane in my mind. I was ready to get shit done, for lack of a better term. I was ready to go back to work at MWA, to fight to save our wild places and wildlands. But I also came away with the realization that rallies and marches matter, no matter your political side. It's a way to stand for your principles, to show that you want to change the way things are or could be. It's a time to lend your voice to others, but not an outlet to complain, to whine and lash out in a tantrum.
It's a time to commit to coming together, to making plans and acting on the principles that form the bedrock of your own personal reasoning, be it right or left, red or blue.
This is the foundation of our country, the ability to demand change and fight for what you believe in. So don't sit behind your computer and yell at others in the comments section, but rather get out there and actually talk, in-person, to the opposing individual. Have your voice heard.
Because maybe you'll see me out there, sign in hand.
Beer I drank: Rainier Beer (yeah, I kept it pretty simple this time around)
Song I heard: Bow and Arrow by Reuben and The Dark
Book I read: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty