A Message to Protestors for this Thursday

From a June 2020 protest

I was honored to join you all in support of abortion rights last Thursday. There were 250 of us strong, many of us students, all united and motivated in our activism; if that demonstration was any indication of our generation’s strength, we are going to be a potent force for change once we begin voting and running for office.

We did, however, experience some hatred and altercation: counterprotestors from a group from Germantown drove their illegally-modified trucks into Menomonee Falls, yelling and, later, throwing projectiles at demonstrators, which did hit our protestors. We also fell for hatred and distrust as we confronted and hurled insults at bystanders. Nevertheless, the protest was largely respectful and positive.

We come to this next protest, which will take place this Thursday, knowing that there will only be more counterprotestors, more provocateurs, ready and willing to incite and accentuate violence, fear and hatred. They will want to “make us look bad” by forcing us to respond to them. They want us to insult them. They want us to relinquish our empathy, look evil, appear “nasty.” They want us to hate them, hit them, hurt them. All so that in our next protest, they can call us vile thugs or use our reactions in their misinformative videos of “the left wants to destroy America” or “liberal SJWs are domestic terrorists.” 

Our novel movement has always focused on hope: we are all angry and sad, but we also see this moment as an opportunity to push for much further change – abortion rights are inextricably bound to broader women’s rights, racial equality, economic equity, LGBTQ rights, and so much more. Participating in a grand protest movement that seeks to bring abortion rights back to America, we also begin to participate in a broader movement, one which is fighting not only for abortion rights, but for all human rights – because the issue reaches even the very corners of American society, affecting a majority of America’s population directly and all of America indirectly. Such a far reaching movement can have profound, positive impacts on the whole of American society; and for that we have – and must have – great hope that we can make those impacts.

Counterprotestors will seek to wear us down, beleaguer us and crush our hopes. They will make us angry instead of hopeful, hating instead of loving. We must embrace not anger and hatred, but hope and love; for this is a movement of hope, empathy, and love (to be pro-choice is to have empathy, love and understanding toward the pregnant woman, letting her, and only her, be the sole decision maker over her body), and there is no place for us to respond to their cries for attention.

When they yell at us, drive their inefficient, 1990s pickup trucks past us, proudly display their symbols of oppression, intimidate us with weaponry, or attempt to insult us, we must not respond. We must stand strong, unwilling to sit; we must break their arguments with our hearts (not our arguments); we must proudly display our symbols of love and tell them, “It is extremely hard for me to like you, yes, but I can always seek to love and understand you, just as Martin Luther King did in the 1950s and 1960s.”

We need not insult them or respond to their arguments. Whenever we give out our strongest argument, they will be able to respond with theirs. Whenever we yell at them, they will be able to yell back. Yet, if we tell them that, in spite of everything, we love them (agape, the highest form of love), they will not have a response; for if they truly have hatred in their hearts, they will have no advance. Love neutralizes and will always neutralize every single person who wishes to call us their enemy. Nations and people will always build their arms, but rarely do they open them; we, the strugglers for freedom and equality, must be the ones to open our arms.

We must understand that we are struggling even for those people who stand against us, even for those who are willing to ostracize us, destroy our hope and dignity, and beat us to the ground. For they or their loved ones may, too, experience life-altering pregnancies when completely unprepared, have an ectopic pregnancy that doctors are unable to treat because they are afraid of breaking the law, or be forced to carry to birth their rapist’s child. Surprise pregnancies for strained families are extraordinarily damaging. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The injustice against women’s right to choose is a threat to all Americans’ freedom. We are all inexorably connected to each other.

So, I say to you, my friends, as they try to beat us down, we will not let hatred or bitterness turn us around and force us to sit down! We will stand up to even those who wish to hate us, and we will tell them we LOVE them. We will be strong, we will not back down, and we will continue and continue until love, empathy and justice have permeated to every state, county, city, and town in our country and around the world.

        A movement founded on hope must continue on hope. Join us as we struggle with hope for justice and love for all of humankind.