My mother took me to my first political protest when I was an infant. It was 1987 and she trekked to the National Mall to stand against the horrendous treatment of Jews living in the Soviet Union. I have no memory of the event, but I have this image in my mind of my mom holding me while a mass of outraged American Jews voice their anger and support. I can picture the Mall, packed with protesters, and tiny little me looking around at the power of the people.
Even though I don’t remember the moment, it means something to me. I like to think the spirit of peaceful revolt was injected into me early. And the spirit of sometimes not-so-peaceful revolt. Things don’t always go smoothly when it comes to civil and personal (the personal is political, after all) disobedience. I was a quick human rights sympathizer. Even as a toddler, I felt deeply that certain things were fair or unfair, right or wrong. I expressed these feelings through loud and unruly tantrums.
I’d be lying if I said my epic tantrums have left me forever. I just try my best to channel them into a more acceptable form for an adult. We all choose different methods of revolt. Sometimes it’s standing alongside same-minded strangers. Sometimes it’s sitting next to people who need help. Sometimes it means walking away. A lot of times it means walking. People love walk-a-thons. The core of any protest, really, is making your voice heard. And having a sturdy pair of shoes.
There was a time when heading to the polls was a protest on its own, when people were killed for just trying to cast their choice. Those voters knew having their opinion heard meant more than just tediously checking a box. When I step into my polling place in November, I’m going to remember that spirit. I’ll be issuing my silent protest against hate and ignorance and sending my vote to fight for equality and progress. And when I do, I’ll be thinking of my mother, carrying her baby girl through the streets of this country’s capital city to stand against the wrongs of the world and try to make them right. If she can do that, we can fill out a ballot.