In the countdown to Friday’s inauguration…
In the countdown to Friday’s inauguration, I find myself being asked – at least once a day – whether or not I would agree to play at the festivities, if invited.
Yesterday, while fellowshipping with a number of college-aged youngsters, both my willingness to perform, and my interest in joining a protest were called into question. “Would I perform, if asked?” “Yes,” I said. “Would you protest the accepted outcome of the election?” “No,” I said, and quickly followed up with, “I’ll at least wait for him (or them) to actually do something that I feel should be protested against.”
Well, not expecting these answers, the young people were extremely dissatisfied and became quite agitated. The conversation quickly shifted to what constitutes “selling out” and the somewhat rhetorical questioning of whether or not selling is a natural side effect of aging. It then detoured into uniformed suspicious speculation on the Electoral College, which gave way to pure conjecture about the role of Putin in the electronic balloting process. This, predictably, boiled down to a conclusion that the election itself was not legitimate (and by deduction, that voting itself is a waste of time).
It was all so sincere and heartfelt that the veteran in me had to smile, chuckle and shake my head. “What’s funny?” they asked. I replied, “When a process yields results you really don’t like, that’s the perfect time to endorse that process. It proves your belief in the larger agenda. And that’s why, if asked, I would be happy to play. As far as protesting goes, I did that on November 8th. The election was the protest.”
It got me thinking about my great uncle, born in 1883 in rural Louisiana. He was known for going to vote on every Election Day, in spite of being turned away. He was said to be so persistent that after some absurdly large number of years, he was finally allowed to cast his vote. When I asked why he would return year after year to face that humiliation, he told me,“Make people cheat you to your face, son.”
Being a child of the Civil Rights Movement, I grew up knowing that activists from all walks of life courageously faced injustice head on. They even had the theme song “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.” Being present was their calling card. I think that many of the people boycotting this inauguration seem to have forgotten our democratic mandate to participate and our responsibility to be present. Now is not the time for leaders to disappear and allow the national dialogue to be shifted away from the sometimes impossible negotiations of conflicting viewpoints that are essential to the well being of our democracy.
Participation is the way to honor all of the sacrifices of our ancestors and to create the world we would like to bequeath our descendants. Let’s be present.