In 2016 I wrote an article about then presidential-hopeful, Donald Trump, hosting an event in my hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I was miffed.
And it wasn’t for the reason you’d think. I was annoyed that he was coming and I wasn’t invited. Nobody was invited, actually. It was a highly-priced, ticketed event and I didn’t have the option of attending. Let me be perfectly clear: I didn’t want to attend. I was annoyed that my choice was taken away from me.
Fast-forward three years (or so) and Mr. Trump is back in Minneapolis. This time I invited myself.
This time around I didn’t want to make it inside to the event. I made myself a sign and I walked into downtown Minneapolis, stopping when I saw the Baby Trump blimp. I knew I’d made it to the right place.
Setting aside personal politics, it’s safe to say that the concept of democracy is intricately tied to the idea of free speech. No matter what we believe or who we are, where we come from, and what baggage we carry, we all want the fundamental right of speaking freely and of being heard whilst doing so.
There is little else as discouraging as learning that you’ve been talking but that the person you were speaking to wasn’t listening. They didn’t hear you.
Peaceful protests are democracy in action.
They empower us to speak.
They enlist us to listen.
They remind us of the power to be found inside we the people.
It was a privilege for me to be a part of the protests. I was proud to be standing where I was within those strangers, all being reminded of those same things. There’s a shared bond to be found amongst the crowds in moments like those.
But I was a peaceful protester. I don’t believe we need violence to make ourselves heard. Can that be loud enough to be heard over the din? Sure. Absolutely. But so can silence. Silence is one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard, I don’t know about you.
The protesting I participated in was filled with laughter and hope. People were smiling. There were bands in the streets and folks dancing to the music. I saw strangers talking to strangers, connections being made in front of my eyes. I saw the passion and the drive and the spirit of good people—all just wanting to be heard.
I saw anger, but it was channeled into a productive purpose. It was given meaning.
What I didn’t see was what happened later—the violence. It was minimal, but it was there and my heart sank when the news reached me.
When we let injustice and betrayal, anger, and hatred rule our actions, we’re not leading with democracy. We’re proving why we still need it.
Minnesota’s stereotyped personality trait is summed up in the phrase Minnesota nice. We joke about it, but it’s often true. People from this fine state do tend to be kind, polite, avoid confrontation, and practice a humor that is more self-deprecating than not.
I saw so much “nice” in this experience, so much acceptance. My hope is that we can hold tight to the niceties as we continue to make our voices heard—on either side of the aisle—because when we fall back on anger and bullying we’re losing ground. Two steps forward, one back, is no way to meet in the middle.
Below are some of the best moments (and signs) that I walked away with:
While I didn’t agree with every sign and every protest chant, I did listen.
And if the experience reminded me of anything, it was the importance of walking our talk—it’s one thing to commit to the mindful life and to live a mindful internal life. But it’s just as crucial to make the stand and let our actions speak as well.