Think before you protest

By Kelly Smith | 9/20/17 9:36pm

I’ve noticed a lot of rallying going on lately, not only in Allendale, but also in Grand Rapids. On Labor Day, for instance, there was a protest that occurred in downtown Grand Rapids, which you can read about in an article by Joshua Vissers in the news section. Given that I was out driving that day, I do recall seeing a parade of people with signs marching toward Rosa Parks Circle at one point. 

I’ve thought a lot about protesting recently. Being an introvert, public speaking has never been a strong suit of mine. 

In fact, while I do know that it is important to stand up for what’s right, I also believe that there are times when it’s better to not make a public display of something that doesn’t need to be brought to everyone’s attention. So the question is, where’s the fine line between these two viewpoints? 

Oftentimes, when I am faced with this decision, there’s one question that runs through my mind: Would I be right in saying something about this, or am I just being defensive? Oh, how easy it is to be defensive about our own views. Any time someone says something that we find offensive (or at least think that we should find offensive), we want to fight it. 

"No, that’s not right. Listen to what I have to say." The problem is, it’s very easy to let that be our reason for reacting against something or someone. For example, the comments section of controversial YouTube videos can get very nasty sometimes with insults and slander, as I pointed out in a previous column about avoiding pointless conversations.

I think the first thing we need to do when making a decision about speaking up is ask ourselves why we feel the need to do so. Even if the situation does call for speaking out, what’s the best way to do it? 

I think that depends somewhat on the person because someone who’s outspoken will probably be very verbal about it, while someone like me might prefer writing a column about it in the Lanthorn. Both ways can be effective, depending on the scenario and the way the word is spread by the person. 

I’m not trying to push or discourage either perspective. I’m just pointing out that there are pros and cons to both, and sometimes one option is better than the other. 

To put this into perspective, there are many conflicts, from small arguments to violent protests, that lead to confrontations that are completely unnecessary. We live in a country where we have rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. 

When it comes to a public protest, there will always be some form of opposition, and they have the exact same rights that you do. How you wish to speak up for or against something is your choice, but it doesn’t always boil down to opinion. 

There are times when it’s better to speak out and other times when we need to realize that involving ourselves in a certain conflict is just a waste of time and might even get us into trouble. Be smart, and be diligent.

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