After the election ended, which took a little longer for us here in North Carolina, calls went out to "come together," to put aside our differences and give Trump a chance (or unite against him). We were told that together we're a powerful force, that we can change the world. Huzzah!
Did that spirit of togetherness last one full day? What the hell, you guys?
A month later and we're still calling liberals "snowflakes" and the police "pigs." And the KKK is all, "Let's rally!" We're being told we should boycott a local business because of one person's products but that we're jerks if we don't #ShopLocal. We've got a controversial media organization boycotting cereal while we watch on Facebook as bank tellers and protesters chest bump each other in mutual frustration.
These days it seems everyone is protesting or boycotting something and the idea of togetherness has been dropped like a hot mic. That's because we imagine bridging the Grand Canyon of political divides while holding hands. That sort of togetherness was going to be difficult anyway, and may not be possible in a time when we're deeply entrenched on our side, unwilling to compromise.
I won't discuss the merits of any protests because all acts of resistance matter and it's your constitutional right to protest. I'm here to tell you that '"togetherness" in today's world doesn't mean what we we thought it meant on Election Day. After covering numerous protests in Charlotte over the years, including the four-month Occupy Charlotte encampment, my observation is that togetherness is a fragile thing.
The Standing Rock North Dakota Access Pipeline protest began in the spring of 2016. It eventually grew from a small prayer group to an encampment of tribes from around the country. Then came the celebrities, the national media and others from various backgrounds including a couple thousand American veterans vowing to act as human shields to protect the Protectors.
That surge of support led to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hitting pause on the pipeline. But the Corps put things on pause in September, too, and yet here we are in December with the Energy Transfer Partners promising to finish construction as planned.
As Charlotte's former Occupiers can tell you, an extended protest includes many ups and downs. There were days when the group was united and many more when they were arguing amongst themselves. So it was no surprise when, following the Great Tent Eviction, the group lost its momentum and fractured for good.
Will that happen to the #NoDAPL group? Will the pipeline lurch forward again when no one's paying attention? Only time will tell.
This is the way of us humans. We want to identify with a cause, but living within it is a challenge. It doesn't take long before people are pointing fingers asserting others are "doing it wrong." It can often feel like more time is spent criticizing allies than tackling the matter at hand.
People drift off and new folks with no understanding of a group's history drift in. Togetherness stagnates and resentments fester. People tire and go home. Small wins lead to cries of "Victory!" and people stop paying attention. Soon the protest is a memory.
To effect change, no matter what side you're on, you must bolster your numbers and find opportunities to compromise so you can move your cause forward. If you fail to figure out how to best communicate with sympathetic individuals who can bolster your numbers, if you can't decide how to direct their energy and if you refuse to compromise, your cause will fail. Period. That's also because the monied interests and government are effective with their own brand of togetherness.
The togetherness sought by most involves allowing people to take on various roles and accepting that everyone's contribution won't look the same, but that it's all crucial. This kind of togetherness involves tempering your angst within your group, a strong dose of understanding and some serious communication skills. Today, 'togetherness' means really working together, recognizing that everyone has something to contribute and avoiding the urge to fracture internally.
It's important that any and all acts of resistance, no matter how small, still matter.