Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tom Healey: Protest as Conversation, Dissent as Dialogue

from Tom Healey's article, "What Will We Say to Each Other?"

True dissent doesn't lie in quotes or signs. It's not what true protest or where change happens.

Protest is a conversation. It's been a strange, often frustrating, sometimes easy to mock, but essential ethos of American protest movements like #OWS and the Tea Party. And if you think about it, true conversation is democracy. All sides get to speak. It continues to be such a radical idea.

And true conversation, the one that brings unheard voices to the table, emerges not from agreement, but from dissonance -- when we don't agree, when we've talked but haven't listened, when we've stood by and haven't stood up.

The poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox said that to stand by when we should protest is "to sin by silence."

A few months ago, the great American poet Adrienne Rich died. There is so much I'd like to say about her, but I think it's best to close with a few of her words instead. Adrienne Rich was a brilliant, fearless writer -- a feminist, an activist, someone who truly spoke truth to power.

In keeping with Wheeler Wilcox's argument that we sin by silence, Rich wrote, "Yes, lying is done with words, but also with silence ... Telling the truth creates the possibility for more truth to be told around you."


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