And two snapshots from downtown Tucson yesterday:
– At an area down in Presidio Park for kids to draw pictures about how they feel about SB1070, a crayon drawing reading: “I Hate SB1070 Because It Takes Parents Away From Children.” The drawings in general focused on fears of parents being taken away from kids, actually. Not a perspective one gets much on the larger immigration debate in this country, actually.
– At the main protest down at the state building: An infant, just barely standing, wearing a button: “Reasonably suspicious.” This just made me smile and smile.
I spent about an hour out there mid-afternoon. It was a small crowd then, but beginning to grow when I left. Apparently the crowd swelled large enough, by rush hour, to block traffic and lead to arrests.
So two days ago–the day before SB1070 went into partial effect–I had a conversation with an acquaintance about the law. It was an uncomfortable conversation, because I’d assumed we were in agreement until we began talking, because the words “they” and “them” were tossed around a lot in unkind ways, because my acquaintance seemed more concerned about her own comfort and safety than that of those who are actually in danger. But mostly it was uncomfortable because of how angry it left me–even during the conversation, I found myself interrupting, talking over my acquaintance’s words in my anger at the things she was saying–and anger kept me from arguing well, because it was so uncomfortable to even hear what she was saying.
This was still on my mind when I went downtown yesterday and stood outside with SB1070 protestors in front of the state building. I’d say about two-thirds of the cars that drove by were supportive–honking, waving, smiling, quietly giving thumbs-ups. But there were also significant numbers of people frowning, shaking their heads, shouting at us.
Smiled at the old white man in his car who sat shaking his head as he waited for the light to turn, smiled at the younger man who pointed and told us “Mexico’s that way,” smiled at the bus driver who scowled as he rode on past.
I wasn’t the only one doing this, of course. As one man shouted at us from his car while also waiting for the light to change, protestors around me cheered and called out “have a nice day” and “God bless you.” The light was long; by the time he drove off, that man was half-laughing in spite of himself, even as he waved us off with a “go to hell” sort of gesture.
I count that as a victory.
Later, walking back to my car, when a woman asked me about the sign I was carrying and then began ranting at me about how stupid the protests were, I was able to respond with less heat than the day before, and also to extricate myself from the conversation once I was done stating my view and it was clear she wasn’t truly listening. And I was able to walk away feeling less angry and frustrated myself.
There’s a part of me that’s always been a little hesitant to get involved politically, because it does make me angry, and I find–no surprise–that being angry over the long term is pretty uncomfortable. As I drove home, I was reminded–as I had been at the protest back in May–that it’s possible to do this thing in a joyful way, and that while that doesn’t make the anger go away, exactly, it makes it makes it manageable–keeps it from getting in the way.
The notion of acting out of love rather than hate is an old, old notion, one that was central to the last civil rights movement. I knew that. But what I didn’t quite understand is that doing so isn’t only a moral position, and it isn’t only about kindness and decency toward the people one is protesting against.
It’s about the protestor. It’s about protecting oneself, about keeping one’s psyche in a place where one can remain involved, rather than quickly burning out and needing to withdraw.
I’m still thinking about this.