I’m not a confrontational person. In fact, if someone were to tell me even a year ago that I’d be advocating for non-violent direct action during the 2016 Presidential election, I’d have laughed in their face. So what changed?
Imagine you’re standing in line at a candidate meet and greet, waiting to shake the hand of a presidential hopeful and ask them about an issue that’s important to you. Maybe they give you the answer you want to hear. Maybe they are aligned politically and assure you that they will advocate for your interests. But even then, should we trust them? Isn’t it easy for candidates to give teetering, lack-luster answers, because they know they’ll be drowned out by hundreds of other questions?
We are living in an age of celebrity politics, where are candidates more prepared to pose for selfies than they are to talk about their voting record. I know people see through these charismatic politicians, but no one teaches us that we don’t have to accept their dishonest leadership.
This is why we do what we do. I wish I could ask my question politely and rest assured that my concerns would be taken seriously. But the fact of the matter is, that is not the political climate we’re living in. We’re told to be polite, wait our turn, respect the process, but the truth is, the process isn’t working for us, and we need to pursue other avenues if we’re going to make our issues heard.
This is why non-violent direct action is important, even for a person like me, who doesn’t like conflict. Because it may be disrespectful to interrupt a candidate’s speech, but it’s even more disrespectful for a person running for political office to snub the interests of their constituents.
I wish I didn’t have to jump up and down, perform ridiculous skits, dress up in outrageous costumes, but that’s the way I’m going to get these candidates’ attention and pressure them to take action.
We’ve had a handful of folks approach us after actions telling us they agree with our message, but not our delivery. They ask how we expect to get what we want without dialogue. Of course it’s important to meet the candidates at the table, work internally, and create change cooperatively. But when it comes to climate change, politicians have known about the imperative to act for decades, and we’re running out of time.
So we need people on all fronts, and the good news is there are dozens of ways to intervene to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. Whether it be having the courage to stand up at a town hall and ask a question, talking to your friends about voting, or rabble-rousing politicians. We need to use every avenue of our democracy to ensure these candidates are actually working for the people’s interests, and not the wealthy donors financing their campaign.