By Chloe Iglehart and Zoe Stedman
In many cases, protests are an effective catalyst for change. If you don’t like something, the best thing to do is to stand up and speak out against it. However, protesting the upcoming presidential inauguration is a prime example of when protesting is far more harmful than it is constructive.
The recent election left many Americans feeling devastated and afraid, so discouraging them from being proactive about their concerns may come off as dismissive and insensitive.. Having said that, protesting the inauguration itself is pointless. No change will come of it. In reality, not only are anti-Trump protests detrimental to a cause that could be productive, protesting the inauguration gives people an illusion of contribution when in reality their efforts are futile.
Again, this isn’t meant to condemn all protests, as standing against bigotry and inequality has clear value and importance. Nevertheless, protests have a time and place. Jan. 20 is not the right time to exercise civil disobedience, especially if branded as anti-Trump. One is free to express their dissatisfaction with the election results; free speech is a fundamental American value and it certainly feels satisfying to release frustration. Anyone has the freedom to be upset about the election results, and to utilize their first amendment rights. But the truth is, while it feels as though protesting the inauguration is productive in standing up against issues of injustice, protesting Trump’s inauguration is simply protesting the democratic process. And although no one could argue that democracy works perfectly all the time, a peaceful exchange of power is one of the things that makes our government effective.
Despite losing the popular vote, Trump won the election. It’s not difficult to see why this is frustrating to many, but the electors have cast their votes and the results are set in stone. Protests cannot and will not change the results of the election. Inauguration protests are simply a protest of the formal admission of the President elect into office. Why would one protest that? It’s a waste of time to chant in the streets that he’s “Not My President,” because he soon will be. No matter how many people attend a march or yell at a rally, Trump’s election will not be undone. Democracy doesn’t work like that. Protesting now will only continue to raise tensions by further polarizing an already divided America.
Although this is meant to discourage anti-Trump protests, it is in no way intended to suggest that one should simply grin and bare it—apathy is a plague. However, protesting the inauguration is not only an act demonstrating ignorance towards the democratic process, but also creates a mask of false productivity for those protesting, that hides the fact that their efforts have no value. It’s not difficult to show up at a protest. Yet the ability to take action so easily has the negative effect of making one feel as though showing up to one protest is enough to consider themselves part of a movement’s progress. Long-term change does not come from attending a single protest, especially when said protest is part of a cause that is unproductive in the first place. By attending one protest and deciding that it is enough, movements will never gain enough support to achieve their goals. It simply provides the appearance of productivity to those too lazy to put in the effort necessary to create the kind of change they wish to see.
Instead of wasting time and energy joining inauguration protests, help to create productive political change. Put your passion and anger into use in places where it is truly valuable and can make substantial progress in our country. Your voice is an extremely powerful tool, but your words will lose their gravity if you protest against election results that are irrevocable, and that is precisely why you should contribute in other ways. Marches and protests have made a large impact on our nation’s history and will continue to do so, if they are done with genuine determination in a constructive manner. Our right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech is imperative. If you choose to take to the streets, protest issues that are changeable or raise awareness for a worthy cause. It is more effective to voice your displeasement towards specific policies than it is to complain about the political process that just happened to produce an outcome you don’t agree with.
People simply won’t take protesting the inauguration seriously, and for good reason. The reasoning behind these events raises a lot of questions: Do the protesters not agree with democracy? Do the protesters understand how the election process works? What do they aim to achieve by doing this? As a country that values democracy, it seems ungrateful and ignorant to protest a system that values your voice, especially over an event that is inalterable. It’s taking something that many other nations don’t have for granted. We are privileged to live in a democratic nation, and by protesting our democracy, it comes off as disrespectful to the very foundation of our nation.