Stand­ing tall for all of us

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

There was a lot go­ing on this past week. Trump was sworn in as Pres­i­dent and Will and Grace an­nounced that it would be re­turn­ing to our screens, so over­all, it was a neu­tral week.

The day af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion I par­tic­i­pated in the Women’s March, a world­wide protest of his pres­i­dency, or rather, the state­ments his pres­i­dency makes about our so­ci­ety.

There were thou­sands of us in Auck­land, and mil­lions world­wide. It was big. HUGE. TER­RIFIC.

With­out even a sin­gle po­lice of­fi­cer, we peace­fully walked down Queen St, lis­tened to some speeches in My­ers Park, then I don’t know what ev­ery­one else did, but I got a Tank juice.

All in all, it was a stan­dard protest that showed its par­tic­i­pants they’re not alone, and the peo­ple in power that we’re all tak­ing no­tice.

At­tend­ing the march is now sec­ond on a list I’ll have ready when peo­ple ask me 20 years from now, ‘‘what did you do to stop him?’’ It’s right be­low ‘‘did a tweet’’. And right above, ‘‘take a nap’’ (a good sleep is vi­tal in the re­sis­tance).

Given that at­ten­dance at the march was big­ger than the in­au­gu­ra­tion, it re­ceived a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion. Peo­ple praised it, oth­ers felt hope­ful, some im­plored the pub­lic not to be­come com­pla­cent be­cause of its suc­cess, some got mad at Tay­lor Swift for not go­ing, some were like, leave her alone, Trump stopped lis­ten­ing at ‘‘Women’s’’.

There were a va­ri­ety of re­ac­tions, though it’s fair to say, none were more frus­trat­ing than those claim­ing that it was some­how anti-demo­cratic and hyp­o­crit­i­cal. Just a bunch of lib­er­als hav­ing a cry be­cause it didn’t go their way. As a lib­eral who cries, I can as­sure you, it does not look like me march­ing down Queen St, then get­ting a juice. It looks more like me alone in my bed­room, or be­hind sun­glasses on a bus.

Colum­nist Mike Yard­ley had a lot to say about the marchers. But I’ll just ad­dress the fol­low­ing ex­tract: ’’They only hon­our the cen­tral tenets of demo­cratic ex­pres­sion when it falls into line with their ide­o­log­i­cal view­point, suits their cause, or the vote in ques­tion favourably goes their way …Their cloth-capped re­fusal to ac­cept the le­git­i­macy of his vic­tory crudely il­lus­trates how nakedly self-serv­ing and hyp­o­crit­i­cal their ad­her­ence to demo­cratic val­ues re­ally are.’’

First, the ques­tion­ing of Trump’s le­git­i­macy as pres­i­dent. It’s not about dis­ap­point­ment that he’s been elected. It’s about mul­ti­ple in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­firm­ing that Rus­sia ac­tively tried to in­ter­fere with the elec­tion out­come. Ques­tion­ing his le­git­i­macy is about pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of the demo­cratic sys­tem.

Sec­ond, this ar­ti­cle, or opin­ion, ex­hibits a fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing of democ­racy.

The no­tion that protest about ide­o­log­i­cal dis­agree­ments doesn’t hon­our the ‘‘cen­tral tenets’’ of democ­racy is only a true if by ‘‘democ­racy’’ he ac­tu­ally meant, ‘‘au­toc­racy’’, ‘‘dic­ta­tor­ship’’ or ‘‘[in­sert joke here be­cause the rule of three is im­por­tant]’’.

A true, rig­or­ous, democ­racy is not one where it’s par­tic­i­pants only voice their opin­ion ev­ery three to four years with a vote.

It’s not one where cit­i­zens are re­quired to just sit qui­etly and ac­cept all pol­icy as it is handed down.

A democ­racy, at its best, is one where ideas are ex­changed of­ten and peace­fully. It’s one where peo­ple fight and de­bate and have their voices heard con­stantly.

The march was peo­ple en­gag­ing in democ­racy in the way that the sys­tem in­tended. To be heard and to be seen.

Fi­nally, to call it ‘‘nakedly self­serv­ing’’ is true. I can’t deny that part of the rea­son I marched, wasn’t only for other peo­ple. It was also for me. So in that re­spect, we agree.

To those of you who counter that Trump and all his sup­port­ers are just ex­er­cis­ing their right to be heard, I would agree. You’re right. But like ev­ery right we’re af­forded, it comes with lim­i­ta­tions, and I would con­sider en­gag­ing in, or en­cour­ag­ing hate speech, to be chief among them.

Though I sus­pect the peo­ple this ap­plies to stopped read­ing at ‘‘you’re right.’’

CAMERON BURNELL

In 20 years, I can tell my chil­dren: I too did some­thing to stop The Don­ald.

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